Memories of Snow Sledding at Harwood’s Mill in York County

Living in a hilly Alexandria neighborhood as we do, when winter rolls in and the snow starts to fall, my daughter and her friends can usually have a bit of sledding fun in the yards or down at the park. Sledding with her naturally takes my mind back to when I was a kid enjoying the snow. And when it came to sledding, I had it pretty good.

York County, where I grew up, is for the most part devoid of hills. It’s quite flat. Because of this, when the snow fell people grabbed their sleds and headed to the biggest hill around: an elevation on the east bank of the Harwood’s Mill Reservoir along George Washington Memorial Highway in Tabb, VA.

This was a perfect spot for sledding. The hill was substantial; it was tall and very wide, and of an even slope along its entire width. At the bottom where the hill leveled out were a few willow trees one had to be mindful of, and then a flat area where one could decelerate without fear of flying onto the highway.

I have memories of sledding there, usually with my father and some friends, on many occasions over the years. Sometimes I had a proper sled with me, sometimes just a sheet of cardboard. Always, I had fun.

My daughter and I were recently looking through an old photo album from a box of my father’s things when we came across the two photos you see here, from either 1983 or 1984. In one of the photos I’m sitting on an antique, wooden sled and in the other I am about to slide down the hill on a piece of cardboard. (I was there with friends and we were taking turns, I believe.) I remember this trip specifically because I recall being embarrassed at how muddy those white corduroy pants had become when we stopped at the Hardee’s just up the road for lunch.

We moved from York County in the spring of 1986 and I never sledded there after that. It seems that in the late ’80s or early ’90s, around the time that the Harwood’s Mill Water Treatment Plant was renovated / rebuilt, the willow trees came down and a fence went up and that was the end of the great York County sledding site.

A recent photo of the hill in question, below.

I would love to hear any memories that readers have of that old snowy (and sometimes muddy) slope.


  1. Kay Heith Johnson

    September 20, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    I have fond memories of sledding on that hill. It looked so big back then. My family lived just off of Rte 17 and Lakeside Dr and on at least one occasion I walked there in snow boots that were 2 sizes too big hauling the sled behind me. There weren’t many winters when there was enough snow for good sledding, so when they came everyone wanted to make the most of it. I also remember getting put on restriction for foolishly walking along the highway. Sorry Mom, but it was worth it!

    • Brenda McIntosh-King

      December 18, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Our dad would take my siblings and I to sled at Harwoods Mill and behind the Yorktown Visitors center (on the big hill?). We had a lot of fun and always ended up with frozen necks & backs from all the snow getting into our coats and shirts when we would fall off the sleds. Sometimes we took turns shoving snow down each others backs for extra thrills & chills. Many of our neighborhood kids on Brook Lane would go there – the Capps kids, the Hollandsworth kids, and of course us McIntosh kids. Good times & good memories.

  2. I’m 62 and remember sledding there. I live off of Magruder Boulevard now. I grew up on Hodges Cove Rd. In fact I have lived within a 16 mile radius my entire life.

  3. Wrote Journey in the snow on that hill after the dam was rebuilt with Les Johnson.Years later I drove Neil Schon the guitarist for Journey in my Toyota.

  4. Laura Newbern

    June 8, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    We lived in Hampton 1968-1973…we would go to said hill year-round to roll down the hill!

  5. Sherry fox wood

    January 24, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Wow! Soooo surprised to see this! I grew up on mill rd right across the street from there! Me and my sisters every year we’re there!! My maiden name is Fox..

  6. Burcher Ray (Matt)

    January 30, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    I have fond memories of going up there going sledding when I was young. It’s a shame they took away the good things like the hill to sled on. Now it’s off limits and so many of my childhood fun times for their. I guess progress has to be but sometimes it sure does suck.

  7. Burcher Ray (Matt)

    January 30, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    I have fond memories of going up there going sledding when I was young. It’s a shame they took away the good things like the hill to sled on. Now it’s off limits and so many of my childhood fun times were there. I guess progress has to be but sometimes it sure does suck.

  8. Great memories of sledding during the day and at night. I can remember a few times walking to Harwood Mills appx. 4 miles from my house on Dare Rd. My brother, sister, & I plus all the neighborhood kids always looked forward to a winter snow. It didn’t happen every year and I guess that’s whai made it such fun. We actually used my dads sleds he had as a kid. I’m 67 and still sledding. Great memories.

  9. Carolyn Johnson

    January 31, 2022 at 3:37 am

    We also from Hampton area; have fond memories of Harwood Mills so much fun sledding on home-made pieces of sledding materials and of course a sled my father bought his seven children for our snow playtime. My parents took us to this memorable event that was later liquidated for advancement of the reserverior….so sad, but still have the lovely memories. thanks for sharing when it snows or we pass by Harwood Mills memories flood back: I’m 67 now and this eventful memerious time is still in ours in our hearts…

  10. Loretta Barlow

    May 3, 2024 at 6:41 pm

    There was a huge tree back where the new plant was built. There was six of us holding our arms together around this tree. This was in 1978. I hope they didn’t cut down that tree. I think it was a willow oak. It was amazing.

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