The tidal fresh marshes along Accokeek Creek grow wild rice, smartweeds, millets, and rice cutgrass that will fuel hosts of migrating and wintering waterfowl beginning in September. Photo: Gary P. Fleming, DCR-DNH

Va. Preserve Gains 59 Acres of Protected Forest Wetlands

This month, Virginia’s Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve, a peninsula between Potomac and Accokeek Creeks in Stafford County, added an additional 59 acres of high-quality forested wetlands known as the Accokeek Bottomlands.

This valuable acreage buffers the preserve visually and ecologically along Brooke Road (Route 608) on its northwest border. 

Preserving the land took a partnership between the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, the Conservation Fund’s Conservation Loans Program, the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation’s (DCR) Natural Heritage Program, the generous previous landowner, and a group of dedicated private donors who wanted to help save it.

Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve is a mature coastal plain hardwood forest, today numbering 3,115 acres, co-owned by DCR and Stafford County. Deep ravines and large tidal freshwater marshes help form to the peninsula’s dramatic topography. Oaks and tulip poplars as large as 4 feet in diameter and more than 100 feet tall grow here. The preserve provides excellent nesting habitat for bald eagles and some 60 species of neotropical migratory songbirds, as well as wintering ground for migratory ducks, geese, and tundra swans. The waters are home to a wide range of migratory and resident fish. 

Archaeological evidence suggests Native Americans have inhabited this land for at least 11,000 years.  Capt. John Smith visited the Patawomeck Chief in July of 1608 in his capital at the confluence of Potomac and Accokeek Creeks with the Potomac River, naming the big river for the tribe (many members of which still live nearby).  

Even though the Potomac became a busy highway in the 17th century and beyond, including the founding of our nation’s capital and the explosive growth that has followed, Crow’s Nest has remained an island of wildness. Google Earth shows dense woodlands broken only by dotted lines of the land’s primitive DCR tail system, the marshes along the two creeks, and the newly-preserved Accokeek Bottomlands buffer.

For Crow’s Nest visitors, there are two access options. The Raven Road Access point features an 18-car parking area and 8 miles of hiking trails within the forested interior of Crow’s Nest on an entrance road. It is open Thursday-Sunday. The Brooke Road Access point offers parking for 20 cars, a shoreline birding/nature trail to views of Accokeek Creek, and an ADA-accessible canoe/kayak launch facility for the Crow’s Nest Water Trail. The Brooke Road Access is open 7 days a week.

Download DCR’s Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve Hiking & Water Trails Map for more information and keep up with current happenings on the preserve’s Facebook page. For exploring these rich and historic waters more broadly by outboard skiff, including the adjacent open Potomac, call Waugh Point Marina on the south side of Potomac Creek for launch information (540-775-7121).

-John Page Williams