More NOVA Parks

I found a few more parks that look potentially interesting.

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

From Fairfax County Parks:

Located in western Fairfax County, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park was established to preserve large areas of open space, protect natural and cultural features and provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities for the public.

Visitors will find a unique experience whether visiting to bird watch, hike, exercise, discover the natural and cultural history of the land, picnic, participate in organized sports, attend an educational program or just relax.

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Lehigh Portland Park

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NVRPA Parks

Below are a few of the parks Stephanie and I want to visit in NOVA. All descriptions are from each park’s page on the NVRPA website.

Fountainhead

Fountainhead is situated in Fairfax Station, where visitors will quickly discover the spectacular view of the widest point of the Occoquan Reservoir. Perfect for fishing or simply relaxing on the calm waters, Fountainhead’s water access allows for private boat launching as well as canoe, kayak and jon boat rentals. Fountainhead also offers a handicap accessible fishing pier.

On land, the park also boasts one of the most challenging mountain bike trails in the region, which features a stacked loop system, with a beginner level loop that newer and younger riders can stay on, or riders can continue on the connecting intermediate loop, and then on to an advanced loop. The course includes the beginner and intermediate loops and boardwalk, trail bridges and technical trail features to create a challenging and exciting ride for cyclists of all abilities. 

The park also serves as one of the major access points for the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.

Bull Run

Bull Run’s spacious fields accommodate groups by the hundreds, even thousands, for picnics, camping or special events. Bull Run’s scenic woodland and trails offer miles of hiking and solitude. In springtime, acres of bluebells and other wildflowers bloom beside a picturesque, meandering stream. A large outdoor pool is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Disc golf is open year round. A public shooting center, which includes sporting clays, skeet, trap, wobble trap and indoor archery, is open year-round.

Red Rock Widerness Overlook

Discover a beautiful out-of-the-way place. Hike over hills and through the woods to panoramic views of the Potomac and the distant blue foothills across the river on this 67 acre property. Trails range from moderate to strenuous.

Dogs are allowed on a leash according to Town and County leash laws. Red Rock Wilderness Overlook is a trash free park meaning that all visitors should take their trash with them. No public restrooms are available at the park.

Occoquan

This spacious park is scenically located on the Occoquan River diagonally across from the Town of Occoquan. It offers 400 acres of recreational space and a touch of the past with its historic brick kilns and the memory of imprisoned women suffragists. Occoquan Regional Park is also one of the few places in the region to serve as a trailhead for, and site within, multiple routes of regional and national significance: Park lands, trails and associated waters are part of the Fairfax Cross-County Trail; the diverse, braided network of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and related outdoor experiences; an historic journey commemorated by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; and the Occoquan Water Trail, recognized as both a National Recreation Trail and part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network.

Pohick Bay

Pohick Bay is a water oriented park located on the Potomac River 25 miles south of the nation’s capital.  Our boat launch facility is one of only 3 public access points to the Potomac River in northern Virginia and the closest to Washington DC and its famous waterfront.  Pohick Bay offers canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and jon boats for rent on the weekends.

In addition to water activities the park also offers family and group camping, hiking, picnic areas and a large play area for children.  For those of you interested in swimming, we offer one of the largest, outdoor freeform pools on the east coast!  Please contact the park about swim lessons for your family.

Pohick Bay Regional Park, located on Mason Neck Pennisula is an ecologically fragile land that shelters an abundance of wildlife, including the bald eagle.  Nature lovers can expect to see blue birds, osprey, heron, deer, beavers and rare sightings of river otters.

Upton Hill

Upton Hill Regional Park offers visitors a wooded oasis in the heart of the most densely populated area of Northern Virginia. A large outdoor waterpark complex is a sparkling attraction in this wooded, urban park, which straddles the boundary line between Arlington and Fairfax counties. The deluxe miniature golf course boasts one of the longest mini golf holes in the world; the batting cages include 9 baseball and softball cages.

The park is open every day for hiking, picnicking, playing on the playground and enjoying the outdoors.

Algonkian

Located on the scenic Potomac shore, Algonkian Regional Park is the perfect place for an afternoon of fun in the sun, a family vacation or even your wedding. The park includes Volcano Island (a large waterpark complex), a par-72 golf course, miniature golf, trails, a boat launch, picnic shelters, vacation cottages, and The Woodlands, a versatile wedding and meeting center.

Potomac Overlook

On the Potomac Palisades in north Arlington, Potomac Overlook offers 70 acres of peaceful woodland, trails, educational gardens, a small picnic area and a Nature Center. The Nature Center features brand new exhibits called the "Energerium", offering visitors a fun and accessible way to learn energy basics and ways they can help create sustainable energy solutions. The displays blend lessons from ecology, Earth Science, physics, chemistry and other topics in clear, understandable ways. The Nature Center also houses live animals and natural history exhibits and is the office for NVRPA’s naturalist staff.

Ball’s Bluff

Surrounding Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery, this regional park preserves the site of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, the first Civil War engagement to take place in Loudoun County. Hiking trails and interpretive signs aid in understanding this important and tragic part of American history.

Blue Ridge

Located in Bluemont on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Loudoun County, this newly developed property offers the ideal setting for an escape to the mountains for organized youth group tent camping. This 168-acre park offers 3 primitive camping areas that can accommodate 30 campers each.  Basic necessities such as vehicle parking, fire rings, picnic tables, and portable restrooms are provided.  Access to the park is limited to registered campers only.

Places to Sail

Below is a map of places that I have either sailed, or would like to try out as a place to put in. My favorite location so far is the state-run ramp near Moraticco, VA (number 6 on the map). The ramp puts you in a creek that leads to a small bay which the empties out into the larger Rappahannock River. If the river or even bay are too windy, then the creek makes for a nice relaxing cruise. It’s certinaly a nice place to go when one if first starting to sail solo. It’s also rather scenic.

The two spots near Mobjack Bay might be interesting. I think those will be my next destinations.


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Weather Forecasts

  1. Gloucester Point
  2. Gloucester Courthouse
  3. Water View
  4. Newport News
  5. Wake
  6. Morattico
  7. Mathews
  8. Hampton
  9. Surry
  10. Reedville
  11. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Handy Sailing Resources

York River State Park

What was forecast to be a relatively cool, windy day turned out to be a rock-star day for some wildlife. We didn’t even have to hit the trails before we saw a Garter Snake crawling through the building just at the doorway to the Visitor’s Center. We were guessing it found a tasty snack up in building’s facade. Just a few feet away, at an overlook at the edge of the parking lot, we saw another Rat Snake or Northern Racer. Unfortunately, we didn’t get of that guy on camera as he was quick to slither away. We did see, though, about < 1 foot away a little bunny huddled up under a bush. Not sure if we saved that guy by scaring the snake away or not; he looked a little big but there may have been some babies around.

We eventually made our way to Taskinas Creek Trail, our original destination for the day. We didn’t see many birds on the walk, but we did see a fair number of lizards. We first found a Broad-headed Skink beating up on an Eastern Fence Lizard. Our passing by broke up the fight, but I have a feeling it picked right back up after we left. The skink was hiding out behind a log watching Stephanie and I taking pictures while the lizard was just frozen. The poor guy looked really battered: he was missing his tail and his shoulder was all scarred up. A few feet down the trail, we saw another pair of Fence Lizards: one small female and another large male with his blue throat all shining. One of the few birds we saw was a White-Eyed Vireo, a bird we hadn’t seen before. The picture wasn’t great, but it was good enough. We also spotted a couple of Cedar Waxwings, one of our favorite birds!

“Eagle Overlook” was sans Eagles but on the way back up to the main trail path, we saw another Fence Lizard; this time with even more blue on his belly. We had never seen that on a Fence Lizard before this hike.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any prime spots for Salamander’s, our main wish-list item for the day. That’s OK, though, it was still a nearly perfect day for a hike.

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Turtle Updates

After looking over the variety of turtles in Virginia, I was inspired to go back through a few photo galleries and pull out some of the turtles we’ve photographed. You can see them on the wildlife page, along with everything else.

Skink Controversy

So here’s the deal: I’m not sure if the pictures I have of skinks are of Broad-Headed or Five-Lined skinks, or perhaps both. I had originally categorized the light brown skinks as Broad-Headed and then later changed my mind thinking that their heads weren’t big enough. Now, after having looked at the Virginia Herpetological Society’s website and counted the scales on at least one of the pictures, I’m thinking that the light brown skinks are indeed Broad-Headed skinks.

Mother's Day

I traveled to my hometown this past weekend for a surprise Mother’s Day visit. Aside from the usual breakfast/lunch thing, I drug my mother out for a walk through the Explore Park off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Virginia. It must have been a sleepy morning for most of the wildlife as there wasn’t much out. I did get a couple of shots of another Barred Owl. I couldn’t quite tell what it was when I was making it famous, though I had a feeling it was an owl judging by its profile.

We followed up the Explore Park hike with a visit to my sister’s house out in the country. I was able to get a couple of the humming birds that visit her feeder, along with some slightly better shots of a Myrtle Warbler; I guess migration season is a little late for some of these birds due to the relatively cold weather we’ve been having this year.

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Neighborhood Walk

Exciting news! Two new finds today: a Northern Flicker (Yellow-Shafted form) and a Myrtle Warbler. I didn’t get very good pictures of either, but good enough that there’s no doubt in my mind as to what they are. In addition to these two guys, we also saw our hawk friend in his usual spot chasing away other birds from his nest. At least I hope that’s what he’s doing, otherwise he’s just a bully. So much excitement considering it was a walk cut short by the looming precipitation and lunch break time constraints!

UPDATE: The hawk is a bully.

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Deep Bottom Park

On a cool and overcast day, the water levels in the James and Four Mile Creek were extremely high. While it wasn’t the best day for wildlife viewing, it was good enough. Just as we were turning around to head back to our car, a Prothonotory Warbler popped out of the bushes. It hung out for a minute or two at a distance of probably 8 feet! We got some really nice shots of him at that range.

We also saw a Blue Heron use his outstretched wings to block the glare while he was hunting for some fish. I hadn’t seen that in person before.

Alas, we saw no Eagle this time.

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