Places We Protect

Dragon Flats Preserve


A kayak offers the best way to enjoy the sights and sounds of this watery wilderness.
Dragon Flats A kayak offers the best way to enjoy the sights and sounds of this watery wilderness. © Andy Lacatell / TNC

Paddle down Dragon Run, part of Virginia's most pristine blackwater stream.



COVID-19 UPDATE (June 3, 2020)

TNC’s public preserves in Virginia remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and to follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

Parking may be limited at many of our preserves. If you choose to visit a preserve, if possible, please visit outside of peak times (11 a.m. through 4 p.m.) to reduce overcrowding in parking areas and on trails. If parking areas are full, please plan to return to the preserve another day.

Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.


Dragon Flats Preserve, though restricted to visitors, can still be seen and enjoyed by paddling down Dragon Run.

Widely considered Virginia's most pristine blackwater stream,  Dragon Run meanders for nearly 40 miles through remote portions of four eastern Virginia counties. Near Saluda, the Dragon widens to form the Piankatank River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 1976, The Nature Conservancy joined with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to commission a Smithsonian Institute study of 232 rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Dragon Run ranked second in terms of ecological significance.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

Since 2001, the Conservancy has worked closely with partners such as Virginia’s Department of Forestry and Friends of Dragon Run to help conserve nearly 9,000 acres in the forest block surrounding Dragon Run.

In 2008, the Conservancy transferred more than 1,800 acres to the Virginia Department of Forestry, establishing Dragon Run State Forest. The state forest provides opportunities for sound forestry and public recreation, while protecting water quality in the Dragon and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

Land conservation along Dragon Run preserves traditional land uses that have endured for at least four centuries. It’s also critical to protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay downstream and its embattled species such as our native oyster. 

Since 2014, The Nature Conservancy has been supporting the construction of a large-scale oyster sanctuary downstream in the Piankatank River.



Please note: dogs are not allowed at this preserve.


495 acres. The watershed encompasses 90,000 acres, nearly a quarter of which is under conservation management.

Explore our work in this region

Dragon Flats Preserve features a striking bald cypress swamp where bald eagles and songbirds nest. The preserve follows the waterfront for a mile and a half and helps form a mosaic of connected conservation areas.

Friends of Dragon Run, our local partner, offers guided paddle trips, as well as a nature trail accessible at the Route 603 bridge near Mascot. Dragon Run State Forest also offers recreational opportunities.

A man kayaking
Dragon Flats
Paddle down Dragon Run, part of Virginia's most pristine blackwater stream.

Dragon Flats Preserve Dragon Flats Preserve, though restricted to visitors, can still be seen and enjoyed by paddling down Dragon Run.