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In the dialect of the Native American Dogue tribe, "occoquan" means "at the end of the water." The Dogue tribe occupied Northern Virginia up until the mid-1600s. They farmed, fished and hunted in the lands and waters of what is now called the Occoquan Watershed -- the drainage basin for the 2,100-acre Occoquan Reservoir.
The long, meandering reservoir traces the border of Fairfax and Prince William counties, Virginia. The two counties have swelling populations, are part of the regional metropolitan area and are just a few miles from the nation's capital, Washington D.C. The Occoquan Reservoir is formed by the convergence of the Occoquan and Bull Run Rivers. Impounded by the Alexandria Water Company in 1957, it provides drinking water supply to over a million people in both Fairfax and Prince William counties.
An alluring fishing spot, fly fishers and anglers will reel in a diverse range of fish: largemouth bass, bluegill, black and white crappie, channel catfish, flathead catfish, northern pike and white perch are popular targets. Boating is another serious passion on Occoquan Reservoir, flanked by steep shorelines and overhanging trees that break the wind. Occoquan River Reservoir's narrow, river-like characteristic is attractive to rowers of all kinds, and the 10-horsepower limit on boat motors diminishes the water disturbance level for patient anglers.
Lake Occoquan courses through and past attractive scenery and nature parks. The Occoquan Regional Park, Sandy Run Regional Park, and Fountainhead Regional Park are all situated along the banks of the reservoir. Combined, they provide boat ramps, boat storage, walking trails, and boat and canoe rentals. The Fountainhead Regional Park has camping, canoeing and kayaking facilities as well as horseback riding and mountain bike trails. The Sandy Run Regional Park is the site of Olympic canoeing and the Occoquan Regional Park retains the memory of a prison farm where women suffragists were imprisoned after demonstrating in front of the White House.
Below the Occoquan Reservoir Dam, the reservoir opens into the brackish Belmont and Occoquan Bays and further into the Potomac River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. On the shores of Belmont and Occoquan Bays, you will find Mason Neck State Park and Potomac Shoreline State Park. Both parks offer more bird watching and hiking opportunities as well as scenic subjects for the passionate photographer. Adjacent to Mason Neck State Park is the Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, created to protect bald eagle nesting. Observe northern Virginia's teeming wildlife among the parks' forests and marshes and peel your eyes for eagle sightings.
Vacation rentals and real estate options are as varied as in any major metropolitan region. Northern Virginia has retained both a unique imprint of southern antiquity (most apparent in the preserved plantations and colonial homes) and natural landscapes. The Occoquan Reservoir and its surrounding parks and refuges provide a quick and easy escape for residents who live in the bustling cities that are so remarkably close by; it may well be the reason why some have chosen to settle here. While you are paddling through the gentle water, or hiking through miles and miles of forest trees with the sounds of birds filling your ears, you could well forget that you were in the middle of a metropolis and not in the great abandon of a wilderness.
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