The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System is a system of protected areas in the state of Virginia. It is managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
As of 2021[update], there are sixty-six (66) dedicated preserves in Virginia, containing examples of some of the rarest natural communities in the state; in addition, many serve as a home for locally, nationally, and globally rare species.
In 1986, the Virginia Natural Heritage Program was formed through a cooperative agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and The Nature Conservancy. In 1988 the program was placed under the control of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). To further the Natural Heritage Program's mission to conserve and manage sites identified as significant natural areas within the state, The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System was established in 1989.
The Virginia Natural Area Preserve System is managed as part of the Natural Heritage Program of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, with the purpose of protecting threatened or rare plants, animals, and natural communities.
To become a part of the system, a Natural Area Preserve must be accepted by the director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, although they may be initially dedicated by other departments and agencies of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Natural Area Preserves may be acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia, or may continue to be owned by independent conservation organizations or other private landowners. Dedication itself is similar to a conservation easement, as it places certain legal strictures on future development of a given portion of land.
Most properties are owned by the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation. However, some are owned by local governments, universities, private citizens, and independent conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy.
Many state-owned properties are freely open to the public for low-impact uses, such as hiking and birdwatching. However, some state-owned properties with rare and/or species and habitats require that arrangements be made with a state-employed land steward prior to visitation.
Privately held properties may restrict public access, although sometimes it can be arranged in coordination with a preserve's owner.
Access to any individual Virginia Natural Area Preserve may be temporarily restricted or closed when it is determined as necessary to protect sensitive plant and animal populations within the preserve, for seasonal migration habitat, or for habitat management and ecological restoration activities, such as prescribed burns. Visitor impactful activities, such as camping, hunting, fishing, timber cutting, campfires, vegetation harvesting, and motorized trail vehicles are typically forbidden at all preserves.
List of Virginia Natural Area PreservesEdit
The following table lists Virginia's Natural Area Preserves as of 2016[update]. Those listed as being accessible "by arrangement" require prospective visitors to contact either state-employed land stewards, private property owners, or both.
|Preserve name||County or
|Antioch Pines||Isle of Wight||1,017 acres (4.12 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Bald Knob||Franklin||79 acres (0.32 km2)||DCR||No|
|Bethel Beach||Mathews||105 acres (0.42 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Big Spring Bog||Grayson||50 acres (0.20 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Blackwater Ecological Preserve||Isle of Wight||318 acres (1.29 km2)||Old Dominion University||By arrangement|
|Blackwater Sandhills||Isle of Wight||815 acres (3.30 km2)||Isle of Wight County||No|
|Buffalo Mountain||Floyd||1,140 acres (4.6 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Bull Run Mountains||Fauquier,
|2,486 acres (10.06 km2)||Virginia Outdoors Foundation||Yes|
|Bush Mill Stream||Northumberland||103 acres (0.42 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Camp Branch Wetlands||Floyd||80 acres (0.32 km2)||Private||No|
|Cape Charles Coastal Habitat||Northampton||29 acres (0.12 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Cave Hill||Augusta||88 acres (0.36 km2)||Madison Cave Hill LLC||No|
|The Cedars||Lee||1,797 acres (7.27 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|721 acres (2.92 km2)||Virginia Department of Forestry||Yes|
|Cherry Orchard Bog||Sussex,
|354 acres (1.43 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Chestnut Creek Wetlands||Floyd||244 acres (0.99 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Chestnut Ridge||Giles||233 acres (0.94 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|Chotank Creek||King George||1,108 acres (4.48 km2)||Private||No|
|Chub Sandhill||Sussex||1,066 acres (4.31 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Cleveland Barrens||Russell||1,288 acres (5.21 km2)||DCR/The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Clover Hollow||Giles||25 acres (0.10 km2)||DCR||By permission||Access permitted only for the purpose of data collection and monitoring.|
|Cowbane Prairie||Augusta||63 acres (0.25 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Crawford's Knob||Nelson||1,387 acres (5.61 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|Crow's Nest||Stafford||2,872 acres (11.62 km2)||Stafford County||Yes|
|Cumberland Marsh||New Kent||1,095 acres (4.43 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||Yes|
|Cypress Bridge||Southampton||535 acres (2.17 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Dameron Marsh||Northumberland||316 acres (1.28 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Deep Run Ponds||Rockingham||706 acres (2.86 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Dendron Swamp||Sussex||636 acres (2.57 km2)||DCR||By arrangement||Contains the 19-acre (7.7 ha) Charles C. Steirly Natural Area, an essentially virgin bald cypress swamp that was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.|
|Difficult Creek||Halifax||819 acres (3.31 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Dundas Granite Flatrock||Brunswick||11 acres (0.045 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|Elklick Woodlands||Fairfax||226 acres (0.91 km2)||Fairfax County Park Authority||By arrangement|
|False Cape||Virginia Beach||3,573 acres (14.46 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Fletcher Ford||Lee||54.5 acres (0.221 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Folly Mills Creek Fen||Augusta||29 acres (0.12 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|Goshen Pass||Rockbridge||936 acres (3.79 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Grafton Ponds||York||375 acres (1.52 km2)||Newport News||Yes|
|Grassy Hill||Franklin||1,440 acres (5.8 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Grayson Glades||Grayson||31 acres (0.13 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Hickory Hollow||Lancaster||254 acres (1.03 km2)||Northern Neck Audubon Society||Yes|
|Hughlett Point||Northumberland||204 acres (0.83 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Johnsons Creek||Alleghany||99 acres (0.40 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Lyndhurst Ponds||Augusta||349 acres (1.41 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Magothy Bay||Northampton||286 acres (1.16 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Mark's and Jack's Island||Accomack||2,000 acres (8.1 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Mill Creek Springs||Montgomery||222 acres (0.90 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Mount Joy Pond||Augusta||274 acres (1.11 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Mutton Hunk Fen||Accomack||516 acres (2.09 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Naked Mountain||Nelson||278 acres (1.13 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|New Point Comfort||Mathews||105 acres (0.42 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||Yes|
|North Landing River||Virginia Beach||3,441 acres (13.93 km2)||DCR||No||After a decade of closure due to illegal activities, this preserve was scheduled to re-open for public use in 2016 or 2017.|
|Northwest River||Chesapeake||2,774 acres (11.23 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Ogdens Cave||Frederick||131 acres (0.53 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Parkers Marsh||Accomack||759 acres (3.07 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Parramore Island||Accomack||7,000 acres (28 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement||Access permitted for research or educational purposes only.|
|Pedlar Hills Glades||Montgomery||1,036 acres (4.19 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Pickett's Harbor||Northampton||123 acres (0.50 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Piney Grove Flatwoods||Sussex||446 acres (1.80 km2)||The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Pinnacle||Russell||891 acres (3.61 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Poor Mountain||Roanoke||1,404 acres (5.68 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Redrock Mountain||Smyth||640 acres (2.6 km2)||DCR||By arrangement|
|Savage Neck Dunes||Northampton||298 acres (1.21 km2)||DCR||Yes|
|Sweet Springs||Montgomery||235 acres (0.95 km2)||Private||By arrangement|
|South Quay Sandhills||Southampton,
City of Suffolk
|3,586 acres (14.51 km2)||DCR/The Nature Conservancy||By arrangement|
|Unthanks Cave||Lee||171 acres (0.69 km2)||DCR||By permission||Access permitted only for the purpose of data collection and monitoring.|
|Wreck Island||Northampton||1,380 acres (5.6 km2)||DCR||Yes|
- "Natural Area Preserves". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "Virginia DCR - Natural Heritage Program". LandScope America. NatureServe. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "§ 10.1-214. Virginia natural area preserves system established". Code of Virginia. 1989. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Virginia's Natural Area Preserve System (PDF). Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. 2016. p. 16. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
- "Natural Area Preserves". LandScope America. NatureServe. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "§ 10.1-213. Dedication of natural area preserves". Code of Virginia. 1989. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Middleton, Leslie (October 6, 2016). "Preserve walks celebrate VA Natural Heritage Program's 30th year". Bay Journal. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Information included in this column is sourced from individual pages listed at: "Natural Area Preserves". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "Clover Hollow Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "Charles C. Steirly Natural Area". National Natural Landmarks. National Park Service. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
- "North Landing River Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- "Parramore Island Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
- "Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
- Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.gov: official Natural Area Preserve System website — all current NAPS preserves.