Saturday, December 29, 2007

Canal Path

We took advantage of the 60-degree weather today, and decided to check out Fredericksburg’s canal trail, which was created by paving the old towpath that runs along the Rappahannock canal. We’ve walked parts of it before, but had never done the full 2+ miles. It’s not a circuit trail, so starting on one end and walking to the other end, and then returning (with a side trip down to the river), took us over 90 minutes, but the path is a wide asphalt strip, so it was just right for a not-too-strenuous stroll. It’s a pretty peaceful place—not too many walkers or bikers in the winter, but rimmed with enough trees to occasionally make you forget you’re walking right through town.

Along with the Rappahannock River, the canal system played a big part in the early industrial history of Fredericksburg (check it out here, and get some info about more recent history here). Displays along the way describe aspects of the canal’s history, ecology, and wildlife. There are wetlands and ponds, including one that was ringed with people fishing (a big sign indicated that the pond was part of the “Urban Fishing Program,” and is stocked with trout and channel catfish). The path has recently been upgraded, and the footbridges that connect the path to the city’s residential streets have been renovated. Oh, it’s not all idyllic nature trail—there’s plenty of trash, and the muddy-looking canal isn’t exactly picturesque. Still, it was a pleasant alternative to our usual downtown walks. Here are a few photos:

One of the footbridges that cross the canal.

The path passes the backyard of the new high school.

Signage along the way highlights the canal path's features.

A boardwalk leads through wetlands to a small pond where if you're lucky, you'll see some waterfowl. We saw a few ducks and an unidentified long-legged water bird of some sort (that white speck on a big rock). Birdwatchers we are not.

Fredericksburg's finest, no doubt keeping the path safe from unsavory characters.

The trail ends on the river, down by the old (now demolished) Embrey Dam. It wasn't Sunday, so rather than take our lives in our hands, we decided to wait until the end of hunting season before exploring the river trail we found down here. Just don't get me started on why the hunters get to monopolize public property for three solid months with their disturbing habit. I think the city ought to at least keep things sporting, and for the duration of hunting season, stock the area with bears.

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