March 10, 2016

Huntley Meadows Park, a Freshwater Wetland and Nature Center in Fairfax County


If you follow Local Ecologist on Instagram you might remember that I noted in my caption of a version of the above photo of Huntley Meadows Park that we did not want to leave the preserve. This was not how the field trip began though. One of the littles did not want to leave home but once we arrived at the park he only slowed down to examine an upturned tree, an impressive beaver dam, and a pair of geese.


If we see an upturned tree, he will stop to explore it.


Huntley Meadows Park is in Alexandria in Fairfax County, Virginia. The park is a wetland preserve. More specifically, it is a freshwater, wet lowland, "one of the most rare habitats left in Fairfax County." The land that is know parkland was once part of a plantation owned by George Mason IV, an asphalt road test site of the Bureau of Public Roads tested asphalt road surfaces, an anti-craft protection zone of the Virginia National Guard's Battery D, 125th Gun Battalion, a highly classified radio communication research site of the Navy, and finally a 1,261 acre public park of Fairfax County signed over in the 1970s by President Gerald Ford. An additional 165 acres was purchased by the county's park authority with financial assistance from Ducks Unlimited to bring the total park extent to 1,557 acres. Learn more about the park here.



You can get close to the wetland from a 1/2 mile boardwalk. There is also 2 miles of interpretive trails and wildlife observation platforms. We walked the boardwalk and part of the land trails but we did not use the platforms.


We directly observed geese, and ducks, too.



Although we did not see beavers we awed at a large dam and earthwork. Fiver found muddy racks on the boardwalk but we could not identify the animal who made them. Can you? We also saw lots of animal scat! See the variety on the Local Ecologist Flickr page.



I'm not sure how many visitors notice the monitoring station in the wetland but it was something that struck me and I was curious about the types of data that is collected. If you are similarly interested, here is the 2012-2015 Monitoring and Research Summary - Wetlands Restoration at Huntley Meadows Park.


There are so many aspects of this preserve to be fascinated by. I enjoyed the reflections of trees and other vegetation in the water of the wetland. See all the photos in this post and more of Huntley Meadows Park on our Flickr.

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