Places We Protect

Blackwater River Preserve


Two kayakers float through a cypress swamp. The height of the trees dwarfs the two people. A fallen tree is in the foreground its broken trunk visible above the dark water.
Blackwater River Canoeing through the cypress swamp. © Daniel White / TNC

Explore one of the best remaining examples of an ancient bald cypress forest in the southeast.



Blackwater River Preserve has one of the best remaining examples of an ancient bald cypress forest in the southeast. Biologists estimate that some trees at this preserve exceed 800 years old.

Researchers have used the cypress trees at the preserve to investigate the demise of the original Jamestown colony, which they predate. The trees reveal climate variations over their lifetimes and indicate that a prolonged drought may have affected the colony's survival. 

This site was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1994 by Arthur and Marie Kirk. It was a wonderful opportunity to protect the bald cypress trees.



Please note: dogs are not permitted at this preserve.


Open year-round, dawn to dusk.

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  • Due to the swampy terrain and lack of access by road, the preserve is accessible only by canoe. Spring is the best time to visit because water levels are higher.

    The nearest put-in above the preserve is at the Route 621 (Proctors Bridge Road) bridge. Paddlers can take out at the Route 620 bridge.


    What to See: Animals

    The preserve harbors a  variety of birds, including the colorful prothonotary warbler. It's also home to reptiles, amphibians, snakes, turtles and a few rare fish species.

    What to See: Plants

    In addition to the ancient bald cypress trees, the virgin swamp forest features large water tupelo, red maple and persimmon.

  • The Nature Conservancy’s preserves are set aside to protect natural plant and animal communities. We invite you to experience and enjoy preserves where we provide public access, but remember that every visitor has an impact. Please follow our visitation guidelines to protect yourself and nature.

    • Preserves are open to the public during daylight hours. 
    • Passive recreation such as walking, bird watching and photography is welcomed. 

     The following activities are not allowed:

    • Bringing dogs onto the preserve unless otherwise noted. Please visit Places We Protect to confirm the policy at each preserve.
    • Dogs are not allowed on any of the Virginia Coast Reserve islands
    • Picking flowers, mushrooms, etc.
    • Removing rocks or other parts of the landscape
    • Smoking
    • Camping
    • Fires or cookouts
    • Driving motorized vehicles, including ATV’s, except on designated access roads
    • Biking, except at Brownsville Preserve
    • Fishing, trapping or hunting, except as otherwise posted
    • Horseback riding
    • Feeding wildlife
    • Releasing animals or introducing plants
    • Disposing of trash or other waste, including biodegradable materials

    To minimize your impact, we ask that you please also observe the following:

    • Stay on trails
    • Avoid walking in wet, boggy areas
    • Inspect pant legs and shoes to remove seeds before entering and when leaving the preserve. Failure to do so could introduce invasive weeds to new locations.
    • If you flush a ground nesting bird, stop and avoid walking near the nest area
    • Observe all posted signs
    • Please do not remove stakes, signs, flagging, tape or similar objects. These may be markers for a research project.
    • Please do not trespass on private property adjacent to preserves

    For your own comfort and enjoyment, come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes for hiking, pack rain gear, and wear long pants with socks over them to protect yourself from ticks and poison ivy. Always remember to bring water, as dehydration is a serious year-round threat.

    If you observe any illegal activity on a preserve such as ATV use, do not confront the offenders yourself. However, do feel free to call local law enforcement.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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