Jack R. Cavalier stood on the tip of the peninsula at the confluence of Aquia Creek and the Potomac River admiring the majestic view encompassing a five-mile breadth of water.
“That’s why our town is called Widewater,” Cavalier said, gesturing with a swing of his arm across the vista of water, egrets nesting on poles, ducks wading on a sandbar and Maryland in the distance.
Widewater is a sparsely populated, unincorporated town of about 15 square miles in rural eastern Stafford County, Va. It includes open space and woodland, two-lane roads and unpaved stretches, bungalows and townhouses, waterfront homes and acreage estates.
“You’re well off the beaten path here,” said Cavalier, chairman of Stafford County’s Board of Supervisors, in his third term and 11th year of office. “There aren’t many places in metro D.C. like this.”
Residents are a mix of a long-timers, retirees and second-home buyers who come and don’t leave. “We’re still largely undeveloped and will remain so, especially because of the state’s purchase of the Dominion property,” Cavalier said.
Future state park: Eleven hundred acres across the peninsula, with water frontage on both sides, was acquired by Virginia from Dominion Virginia Power in 2006. Millions of dollars are budgeted to develop a state park.
Phase I of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s master plan — scheduled for 2016 completion — calls for a boat launch, bank and pier fishing, a picnic area, a playground, canoe-in campsites, a one-mile loop trail, and road improvements.
“This will be a great accomplishment, because it’s one of the most preserved areas in the county and it’ll provide public access to the waterfront,” Cavalier said.
A little bit of heaven: The first attempt to fly by Samuel P. Langley in the early 1900s, before the Wright Brothers, took place off Widewater Peninsula.
“He put his plane on a houseboat and took it to the middle of the water because the river was so wide. My mother went out on a rowboat to watch the flight,” said Mary Cary Kendall — Widewater’s matriarch; the owner of Richland, the beautiful Southern-style plantation house, and the surrounding grounds; and a longtime member of Stafford County Historical Society.
“Richland is a beloved property for generations,” she said from a couch in her living room on July 10, her 84th birthday. “Widewater is a little bit of heaven. I love it so much because my family has been here so long.” Kendall is descended from a family that has lived in town since the 1600s.
Government Island, now a park preserve and archaeological site, was once mined for Aquia Creek sandstone. Rocks were put on a barge and shipped upriver to Washington for construction of the White House and the Capitol. “If Congress was in session when the boats got there, congressmen were called out to help unload,” Kendall said.
Patawomeck Park, named for a Native American tribe in Stafford County, “is where Pocahontas was captured,” said Cavalier.
“There’s a sense of serenity here,” said Kendall.
“That’s the way residents like it. Life is private and not group-oriented,” added Cavalier. “But they help each other out. After a storm, people are out there with chain saws cutting trees that fell across the road.”
Shopping: “If you need anything, you go to Garrisonville Road, the commercial corridor of shops and restaurants,” Cavalier said. A string of shopping plazas includes Kohl’s, Lowe’s and T.J. Maxx.
Decaturs Grocery & Seafood Market at 6 Decatur Rd. is one old-time business started by a preeminent family engaged in fishing and crabbing. Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery at 275 Decatur Rd. is a recent venture and tourist destination.
Living there: “There are no clear boundaries,” said Cavalier. The town is roughly bordered by the Marine Corps Base at Quantico to the north, the Potomac River to the east, Aquia Harbor and Aquia Creek to the south, and Interstate 95 to the west.
According to Michael Straley, associate broker with Fathom Realty, single-family houses and townhouses are the most common properties.
Thirty-five homes are on the market, at prices ranging from $99,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow to $1.9 million for a six-bedroom, five-bathroom custom single-family residence on the riverfront.
Nineteen properties are under contract, from $119,500 for a three-bedroom, two- bathroom 114-year-old single-family house to $417,000 for a 2006 single-family house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
In the past year, 108 homes sold, from $80,000 for a 1995 single-family house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms to $779,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family house on the waterfront.
Transit: Widewater is about 43 miles south of the Capital Beltway and 55 miles north of Richmond on Interstate 95. Stafford is 10 miles to the west.
Reagan National Airport is a 45-minute drive, and Dulles and Richmond international airports are an hour away.
Virginia Railway Express operates weekday commuter service from stations in Brooke and Quantico to Washington’s Union Station.
Schools: Widewater Elementary, Shirley C. Heim Middle, Brooke Point High.
Crime: According to the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, there were 28 assaults and four burglaries between March 2013 to March 2014, the most recent 12-month period on record.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.