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Virginia

Fernbrook Natural Area


Why You Should Visit

Fernbrook Natural Area is an excellent example of a southern Piedmont forest in varying stages of succession. At an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level, the preserve includes examples of mature upland and lowland hardwood forests, a successional oak-pine forest, as well as a small tract of southern pines.

Location

Albemarle County, bordering the North Fork of the Rivanna River

View preserve guidelines.  Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.

Hours

Open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Size

63 acres

Conditions

Easy hiking trails.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

George and Jacintha Paschal donated the 63-acre tract in 1963 as a land gift and requested that it be preserved in its natural state.

The land was originally purchased in the 1700s for $45 — to be paid in installments over a nine-year period. Prior to 1963, it was used for agriculture, cattle and timber. For the first time since the original virgin timber was cut, the forest is being allowed to "complete" succession into a mature stand, paralleling the Shenandoah National Park, where the woodland is evolving to resemble pre-Colonial forest.

It is estimated that the land on the first ridge of the preserve was allowed to return to forest at about the time of the Civil War. The resulting upland hardwoods comprise approximately 100-year-old secondary growth forest. The oak-pine forest was farmland at one time. Slightly furrowed ground, a boundary fence, and piles of loose rocks indicate the former existence of a farm field. Farming ceased in the 1920s (probably due to the Depression, which hit farmers early), and vegetational succession began. It is rumored that the stony outcrop on the river bluff is the feature for which the local community of Stony Point was named.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In central Virginia, the Conservancy is working on conservation easements, habitat restoration, and conservation buyer opportunities as part of its new Piedmont Program.

Plan your visit

View Preserve Guidelines.

What to See: Animals

Birds sighted here include the pileated woodpecker, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, ruby-throated hummingbird, and the red-tailed hawk. Bobcats have been known to wander through the area.

What to See: Plants

The preserve is covered with mature deciduous woodland with a small tract of successional Virginia and shortleaf pine. Upland hardwoods include red oak, yellow poplar, hickory, black gum, red maple, American beech, and other species with scattered shortleaf and Virginia pine.
Bottomland hardwoods include sycamore, ash, hackberry, red maple, black walnut and yellow poplar.

The small streams and springs that run through the natural area support a variety of plant species. The wildlife is typical of the Piedmont region, such as wildflowers. Spotted loe-pye-weed, Virginia knotweed, partridge pea, dwarf Saint-John's-wort, blue phlox and a host of other wildflowers may be found blooming at Fernbrook at various times of the year. There are also several uncommon species, such as the southern adder's tongue. 

For more information, contact the Virginia State Office: (434) 295-6106.

Directions

From Route 250 east of Charlottesville:

  • Turn north onto Route 20.
  • Go north for approximately nine to ten miles, then turn left onto State Route 600 at Stony Point. 
  • From State Route 600 turn LEFT onto State Route 784 (This is beyond where 784 goes to the right.) You will be following along the northern boundary of the preserve.
  • About 0.7 miles down State Route 784 is an entrance lane signed "Fernbrook Farm." Continue past this lane for approximately 100 yards. The trail entrance, on the left, is designated by a trail marker.
Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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