Our morning dawned frigid -- 28F! -- but it started warming up in late morning, and by the time we were able to haul our aged bodies out to the trailhead (more accurately, after David finished giving Ruby her mandatory morning walk), it was in the mid-50's, which was very pleasant for some hiking.
Kathy found mention of the Crows Nest Natural Area Preserve nearby in the estuary of the Potomac River. Named after a schooner that anchored off the peninsula in the 1800's, Crows Nest is one of the last, great undisturbed areas in the Mid-Atlantic. The Preserve's website explains in part:
Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve was established in 2008 with the first acquisition of 1,762 acres. In 2009, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and Stafford County added 1,110 acres. The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) dedicated their Potomac Creek Heronry parcel as an addition to the preserve in 2018 and their Potomac Hills parcel in 2020, bringing the total area to 3,055 acres. Funding for the original two tracts came from a variety of sources including DCR, Stafford County, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Aquatic Resources Trust fund of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy, and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.
Crow's Nest is, simply, a beautiful place and considered highly significant from numerous standpoints. Topography is varied, with the high narrow ridgeline rising 160 feet above two tidally influenced creeks: Potomac and Accokeek. The peninsula is deeply dissected on both its northern and southern flanks by a series of deep ravines cutting into ancient coastal plain marine sediments and feeding tidal marshes along the bordering creeks.
Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve supports:
- 895 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands. The wetlands on the Crow's Nest peninsula account for 60 percent of all the marshes in Stafford County, and represent some of the best examples of diverse and intact wetland habitats in the Potomac River drainage;
- 23 miles of stream, riparian and wetland buffer;
- 2,310 acres of mature hardwood forest including two forest types that are recognized as globally rare by DCR's Natural Heritage Program;
- nesting bald eagles, habitat for the federally listed short-nose sturgeon, and habitat for twenty-two plant species that are significant for the Coastal Plain of Virginia;
- habitat for about 60 species of neotropical migratory songbirds, nearly 60 percent of which are experiencing population declines, including ten species that are high global priority species of Partners In Flight;
- spawning, nursery and/or feeding habitat for 49 species of interjurisdictional fish and seven species of mussels and commercially valuable shellfish;
- lands and waters that have played important roles in the Native American, Colonial and Civil War histories of Virginia.
The Preserve boasts two paddling boat launches that facilitate an almost-5 mile paddling trail which, in better weather, we certainly would have ventured. However, with the cooler weather, we contented ourselves with some hiking.
Here we are at the trailhead near the road-accessible boat launch:
Kathy found a few collectibles, and we returned to the Jeep, heading home so that we could walk the kitties in the late afternoon sun. We had thought of another short hike to round out the afternoon, but decided we'll defer that hike until another day.
We finished it all off with some spectacular baby back ribs that Kathy nestled in a crockpot with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce and some strategically-added Cinnamon Dolce Ale. Wow, such a caramel flavor for those ribs!
We'll have another adventure for you soon.