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Virginia CZM Program: 2015 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task Number:



George Washington Regional Commission

Project Title:

Port Royal Water Trail, Pier Extension and Public Access

Project Description:

The Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends Group, in partnership with the Town of Port Royal, is proposing a water trail that links the canoe/kayak soft-launch facility at Port Royal’s King Street pier (Port Royal Landing) to the nearby Refuge properties.  In addition the project will extend the fishing pier by 100 feet to its design length of 200 feet, including a 40-foot T-Head. The primary objective is to address the coastal management needs of two organizations (Port Royal and the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge) having properties that offer a similar opportunity for visitors but lack a physical connection.  

If the water trail project is fully developed, it will provide an opportunity for visitors to take up to three self-guided kayak or canoe tours from the Port Royal Landing to nearby Refuge tracts.  The novice water trail will begin at Port Royal Landing and continue to the Seyer-Bishop tract, which is 1 mile north. The intermediate trail will begin at Port Royal Landing and continue to the Port Royal Refuge tract. At this point, visitors will be able to land and walk the Refuge trail from the Rappahannock River along Roy’s Run creek through grasslands and forested areas.  After the walk, visitors will be able to either relaunch and return to Port Royal Landing or continue on the rest of the trail. If they continue, this advanced trail is a total of 8 miles from Port Royal Landing to the Toby’s Point Refuge site. 

 At this point, visitors will be able to use the Commonwealth of Virginia’s public access launch site either as a final destination or as a turnabout to return to Port Royal.  Conversely, for an advanced tour, participants could launch from the Toby’s Point Refuge tract and go to Port Royal Landing as a final destination or as a turnaround point.   

Key to the success of the project is a waterproof trail map that will include pictures and descriptions of landmarks that the participants will encounter as they paddle. To enhance the use of the water trail map, signs will be placed along the water trail at each designated point. The signs will be marked with a recognizable water trail logo and will include a description of the significance of the particular site.   

To further ensure success of the project, an exhibit sign at the Port Royal Refuge tract will be visible from the water and will welcome paddlers and provide information about the area. Two observation decks, to be positioned on the walking trail facing the Rappahannock River and Roy’s Run creek, will be built for waterfowl and wildlife observation and photography.  Resting benches will be located along the portage site and trail.  

Finally, a panel at the main entrance of the Port Royal tract will also include the details of the water trail and will have the capability of being updated.  

Expected outcomes are that this water trail and pier extension will effectively connect the two properties and allow visitors to explore and learn about the ecology of the Rappahannock River and its adjoining lands.  The various launch sites will increase the number of visitors to this stretch of the Rappahannock River.  

The primary activity to be undertaken within the construction part of this project is extension of a public, accessible, fishing pier in the Town of Port Royal from its current length of 100 feet to its design length of 200 feet, including a 40-foot T-head.

Although the Rappahannock River constitutes the eastern boundary of Caroline County, only one place in the entire County offers public access to the River, which is at the foot of King Street in the Town of Port Royal. People come to the foot of King Street to fish, to observe the scenery and watch the bald eagles, but it is not satisfactory.  The river near the shore is only about a foot deep with bushes on each side and a small peninsula to the east limiting the view.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Tim Ware; 540.373.2890;

Project Status:

10/1/15 - 9/30/16; Project Completed

Final Product:

Port Royal Water Trail, Pier Extension and Public Access (PDF)

Project Summary:

The Friends of the Rappahannock Group portion of the grant consisted of the development of a water trail that started at the Port Royal canoe and kayak launch at the end of King Street. The trail is made up of three paths along the Rappahannock River. The trails overlap but are designed for the novice, intermediate and advanced paddler. A significant part of the water trail includes a landing at the Port Royal Refuge Unit that is accessible only by water. Upon landing, canoers and kayakers can walk the 1.5 mile trail. The grant included water trail signs, landing signs, observation decks and resting benches. A group of friends members wrote a hardcopy water trail brochure as well as all of the documentation used to develop an IOS based water trail app that can be downloaded from the apple store.


In conjunction with this work, the materials for the decks were purchased and volunteers built the two decks on the Port Royal Unit. The materials were purchased with non-grant dollars and were considerably less than the original estimate because the placement of the decks did not require the altitude that was originally priced in the grant application (4 foot high with matching ADA ramp). The grant included three resting benches. One bench was paid for by a volunteer which further reduced the amount spent on the grant.


The grant provided for four water trail signs placed at each of the landings to publicize the trail and to help paddlers follow the trail. After looking at the placement of the signs, it was determined that the sign at the Port Royal launch should have a set of signs facing the road as the paddlers come in to launch and another set on the other side facing the water for those paddlers coming in from the water. An additional set of signs were ordered. The waterfront signs were paid for with non-grant dollars.


A hardcopy water trail brochure was developed that is printed on waterproof paper and will be put at the launch site and at the Refuge entrance kiosk. In addition, the brochures will be given to local businesses and tourist stops. The Friends Group will also distribute the brochures at their public events. The original proposal called for printing 10,000 brochures. However, the steering committee felt very strongly that there should also be a technology element added to this project to attract the younger paddlers. It was decided to only purchase 3,000 copies of the brochures since many people would be utilizing the app. The water trail app is written in IOS and will be available for download from the Apple Store at no charge to the public. This app features all of the Points of Interest that are in the hardcopy brochure. In addition, there are in-depth articles about the birds, plants, historical houses, and Native American lore (with tie-in to the John Smith Trail).


In regards to the Port Royal Pier Extension, this work was completed in January 2016.  This granted added 100 feet to the newly constructed pier bring the total length to 200 feet.


Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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