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Aug 12, 2009

Paddling in Waller Mill Park, Williamsburg

For a change of pace from sea kayaking, we’ll take you to a little-known spot on the outskirts of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Mill Park
has hiking and biking trails and quiet, shady spots for picnicking. But the real lure for us paddlers is the 343-acre lake, where a rare natural history treat awaits.

You can launch your own boat, or rent one very ine
xpensively: the canoes and kayaks are just $5 an hour.

From the dock, head out to the open water, turn right and look for an opening that passes beneath a bridge. From here, follow the left shore closely, turn into an inlet, and scour the banks and shallows.

You’re actually following an ancient ridge called the Yorktown Formation. Look along the base and you’ll begin to see dozens and dozens of Virginia’s state fossil: Chesapecten jeffersonius!

These huge scallop shells, as big as a man’s hand, are actually fossils, more than four million years old when much of the Virginia Piedmont was a vast inland sea. You’ll see them layered in the banks, and strewn about on the lake bottom.

These fossils have been noted in the earliest annals of American history. Jamestown settlers reported seeing
Native Americans using Chesapecten shells as bowls and scraping tools. Learn more about Waller Mill Park here.

For a fun place to stay nearby, check out the Great Wolf Lodge and its huge indoor-outdoor water park.

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