Getting Out, Getting Away: Lake Accotink Park
A short distance away, the park offers history and recreation.
“Lake Accotink first appeared in 1919, when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed Accotink Creek to create a supply of drinking water for Fort Belvoir, which was then called Fort A. A. Humphreys,” James Fish, Assistant Park Supervisor informed me, recounting the history of Lake Accotink Park in Springfield. “It was created to be 110 acres and 25 feet deep – today it’s about half that size, with shallower depths, due to siltation caused by development.”
The Accotink Creek watershed comprises about 51.1 miles, or 12.4% of the county, according to a restoration plan adopted by the county in February 2011. Heavy development along its length has led to an increase in runoff, which in turn hastens erosion along its banks, washing a heavy amount of soil into the lake.
Though the lake may be smaller, it still contains many recreational opportunities. When the Army turned control of the lake over to the Park Authority in 1960, a master plan was created that included hiking trails, boat launches and much more. Today many of those elements are in place.
“If you go to our marina,” said Fish, “you’ll see a carousel, miniature golf course and snack bar, along with picnic pavilions and shelters. We offer boat rentals, bike rentals and a snack bar.” There are also playgrounds, volleyball courts, basketball courts and an area set aside for dog recreation.
“We also have a 3.8 mile loop trail, half of which contains a portion of the [Cross-County Trail], along with dozens if not hundreds of miles of what we call ‘social trails,’ which aren’t maintained by the Park Authority, but were created by people in neighboring communities,” said Fish. The trails are excellent for hiking or biking, and include some excellent places for lakeside fishing.
For lovers of history, the area around the lake offers a lot to keep you going back. The Park Authority publishes a brochure entitled “Witness to History,” which outlines the property’s history going back to the early Native Americans. In particular, it focuses on the Orange and Alexandria railroad, which ran through the park, and the railroad trestle that dominates the area near the dam. As an important supply line for the Union, it became a frequent Confederate target, with an early version of the trestle being burnt to the ground in 1862 by troops under General J.E.B. Stuart. It was rebuilt and later replaced by the massive iron trestle you see today.
Throughout the year, Lake Accotink offers classes, programs and activities, on “everything from fly-tying to arts, crafts and history,” according to Fish.