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Mariners’ Lake

Mariners’ Lake

The Mariners’ Lake within The Mariners’ Park is a stunning 167-acre freshwater lake that makes the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities! Mariners’ Lake also serves as an essential asset for our environmental education programming for area students.

Welcome to Mariners’ Lake!

The Mariners’ Museum and Park is thrilled to invite you to enjoy kayaking and fishing experiences on Mariners’ Lake!

Come explore the Lake with family and friends on Saturdays and Sundays. Enjoy a relaxing kayak adventure, or catch-and-release fishing from a Jon boat or kayak. All boats must be rented from The Mariners’ at the boathouse. Fishing along the shore and from bridges are not allowed, and a license to fish is required for anyone 16 years and older. 

Here are important details to know before heading out to Mariners’ Lake (and are subject to change):


Hours of operation:

CLOSED for the season
See you in 2024!

Kayaks and Jon boat rentals are on a
first-come, first-serve basis, and
located at the Lake boathouse (view map).

Personal Jon boats, paddle craft, and trolling motors are NOT allowed at this time.

Rental pricing (per hour):

2024 pricing:
Coming Soon!

Please note that we are “cashless” and only accept cards and tap to pay at the Boathouse.

For more information, call (757) 596-2222.

Online reservations are unavailable at this time.


Whether it’s exploring the lakeshore in a kayak, casting a line for fishing enthusiasts, or simply basking in the serenity of the surroundings, Mariners’ Lake offers unforgettable experiences for all ages to connect with the water and with each other.

^A current freshwater fishing license is required. Fishing on Mariners’ Lake is only permitted from Jon boats at this time. All fishing is catch and release.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Mariners’ boathouse is accessible off Museum Drive just past NOAA’s office. The road to the boathouse is unpaved, but does not require four-wheel vehicles to reach it.

View map of the boathouse location.

Yes. The paved lot offers limited parking at the boathouse. Additional parking is available at the Museum’s Business Entrance, a five-minute walk on both paved and unpaved surfaces to the boathouse.

Yes. Anyone ages 16 years and older must have a fishing license.

Through any authorized licensing agents across the Commonwealth of Virginia (in person or online). 

Fees vary and start at $16 and up.

Not at this time. We have been working hard with local environmental organizations in the last decade to bring the Lake to a healthy point. That work remains important in maintaining that same level, and to ensure its long term sustainability.

The Mariners’ has two different Jon boats that are available to rent. The number of passengers on each boat is dependent on weight capacity. One boat is limited to two passengers while the other allows three.

The Lake is currently used for educational programming on the weekdays as part of The Mariners’ Environmental Initiative.

Any person who is caught fishing without a license will be faced with a Class 3 misdemeanor (a fine up to $500).

Swimming is strictly prohibited in the Lake.

About Mariners’ Lake

The Mariners’ Lake, which sits within The Mariners’ Park, is a stunning 167-acre freshwater lake that makes the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities! Mariners’ Lake also serves as an essential asset for our environmental education programming for area students.

Each element of our Park – the forest, the wildlife, and the lake – are all connected to one another. We are thinking about the Park and Lake in three ways:

  1. Health and Sustainability (of the Forest, Lake, and Wildlife),
  2. Educational Programming (for student groups and others), and
  3. Recreation and Wellness (includes boating, fishing, the Noland Trail, and outdoor events).

The health and sustainability of this important natural resource is our top priority.

Other ways to enjoy the Lake:

There are four overlooks with sweeping views of the Lake

  • Monitor Overlook
  • Pine Tree Overlook
  • Oak Tree Overlook
  • Holly Tree Overlook

Lions Bridge offers a great spot to picnic with views of Mariners’ Lake and the James River.

Bird flying over Mariners' Lake.

Protecting Mariners’ Lake

Over the past several years, Park staff have collected water quality data from various sites in Mariners’ Lake and Kettle Pond to study and protect the Lake. Each year, more testing sites are added to increase our understanding of this important resource. Our team uses this data to improve the water quality in Mariners’ Lake which contributes to the overall health of our local watershed. 

black and white image of 3 people standing on the shore of Mariners' Lake

History of the Lake

Mariners’ Lake was the very first endeavor of founder Archer Huntington when he began constructing The Mariners’ Museum and Park. The lake bed was cleared, and Lions Bridge Dam was built in 1930-31, turning the previous salt marsh Waters Creek into a human-made lake. At 167 acres, Mariners’ Lake is sizable and is home to a diverse freshwater ecosystem. With a long history of recreation on and around Mariners’ Lake, it is a valuable resource for the community. Today, The Mariners’ Museum and Park works to ensure the health of the Lake and its wildlife to preserve this asset for generations to come.

Lake Facts

Mariners' Lake

Lake Water

Mariners’ Lake is 167 acres and ranges in-depth from one to 14 feet. It serves as a large stormwater catchment for a portion of the City of Newport News. Our watershed includes Christopher Newport University, the Virginia Living Museum, and portions of City Center.

This area filters stormwater when it rains by settling out dirt and pollutants before emptying into the James River.

bird standing on a log near the shore of Mariners' Lake.

Lake Wildlife

Mariners’ Lake is home to many animals, including:

  • Eastern Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Red-Eared and Yellow-Bellied Sliders
  • Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Common Carp, American Gizzard Shad, and White Perch
  • Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Mallards, and Canada Geese 
Newport News Arts Commission statue, Selene, by Italian sculptor María Gamundí in Kettle Pond.

Kettle Pond

Kettle Pond is six acres and ranges from one to five feet in depth. When the land for the Park was purchased in 1930, Kettle Pond already existed.

Kettle Pond features the Newport News Arts Commission statue, Selene, by Italy-based Venezuelan sculptor María Gamundí.

Engaging local students

With the reopening of Mariners’ Lake for public use on the weekends, our team remains committed to the health and sustainability of the Lake. Through The Mariners’ Environmental Initiative, we are using the Lake as a tool to engage local students in watershed management and on-the-water learning experiences.

Two adults prepare to plan eelgrass in Mariners' Lake.
Students become stewards of the watershed with B-WET grant.
child smiles while kayaking on Mariners' Lake.
Newport News Public School students enjoy kayaking on the water.

Through a partnership with Newport News Public Schools and the James River Association, Mariners’ Lake is playing an integral role in educating local students through meaningful watershed educational experiences (MWEEs). In the spring of 2022, the James River Association led 1,500 Newport News Public Schools sixth-grade students in a kayaking exploration of the Lake. 

Another recent project, funded through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  B-WET grant, is empowering 9th-grade Newport News Public Schools students to become stewards of their watershed.  

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