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Mattaponi River

Often described as one of the most pristine of the waterways making up the Chesapeake Bay river system, the Mattaponi takes its name from the tribe of Native Americans that lived along its banks when the English settled the Jamestown colony in 1607. The people of the Mattaponi considered the river sacred, believing that the stream gave rise to life itself, and even today their tribal descendants depend on the river as the cultural  lifeblood of their community. Captain John Smith became the first Englishman to see the river when the Chickahominy Indians who had taken him prisoner used that water route to deliver him to Chief Powhatan in December 1607.

The Mattaponi is one of the two tributaries (the other being the Pamunkey) that meet to form the York River at the site of the old Indian town Cinquoteck (present-day West Point, Virginia), about halfway between Richmond and Tindall's Point, the important commercial center that developed at the mouth of the York. Robert Beverley, in his History and Present State of Virginia (London, 1705) included the Mattaponi in his list of about a dozen "lesser rivers" capable of receiving the largest merchant ships of the period. Beverley, in fact, resided near the head of the Mattaponi, cultivating on his plantation a variety of native and French grapes in a three-acre vineyard from which he produced as much as 400 gallons of wine annually.

The Mattaponi stretches about the Virginia landscape for about 85 miles before emptying into the York. The river and its freshwater tidal wetlands are home to many species of plants and a variety of birds and fish, including ducks, geese, herons, osprey, bald eagles, blueback herring, striped bass, shad, and shellfish. It is good for canoeing as well as recreational and commercial fishing.


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