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

Places We Protect

Dragon Flats Preserve

Virginia

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

Overview

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.

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.

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.

Dragon Flats
Dragon Flats Preserve features a striking bald cypress swamp where bald eagles and songbirds nest. The preserve extends 1.5 miles along Dragon Run and helps form a mosaic of connected conservation areas.

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