Virginia’s wonderful state parks
This is a monthly column from the Old Rag Master Naturalist chapter that will share things happening in nature each month. It will share places you can go to experience nature, wildlife, plants, insects and more.
Virginia has 40 state parks spread across the commonwealth. Many have campsites and cabins as well as picnic shelters, trails, nature programs and special events. You can sign up for their eNewsletter I Love Virginia State Parks to receive weekly emails about special events, new facilities, workshops and more. Over the next few months, this column will feature State parks that are within easy driving distance of the Central Piedmont area.
June’s featured park
2111 South Hollingsworth Road, Woodstock, Va., 22664 (Shenandoah County)
Note: The Park has no contact station, visitor center or office. Call (800) 933-PARK for information or questions.
6 a.m. – dusk (30 minutes after sunset)
Seven Bends State Park is the 39thVirginia state park and one of its most recent. The purpose of Seven Bends State Park – the gateway to the heart of the Shenandoah Valley – is to provide water and land-based outdoor recreational and educational opportunities while protecting and interpreting the spectacular scenic viewshed and the unique geological, natural, and historical resources of the seven bends area of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.
Seven Bends State Park consists of 1,066 acres and is a day-use park that provides public access to the river. Most of the park was compiled from donated land.
The Town of Woodstock donated almost 85 acres of what had been the town reservoir site. Dr. James R. Myers donated the largest parcel, consisting of almost 674 acres adjacent to the reservoir site. The third parcel, known as Camp Lupton, was purchased by the state from the Massanutten Military Academy and contained over 306 acres.
How to get to the Park
The park is located in east-central Shenandoah County, a few miles from Historic Downtown Woodstock. It’s about 35 miles southwest of Winchester and 40 miles northeast of Harrisonburg.
The Park has two access sites.
For entrance to the south site, take Exit 283 off Interstate 81 for Woodstock, then go east on VA-42, W. Reservoir Road. Cross over U.S. Route 11 (S. Main Street). Continue E. Reservoir Road, turning right ontoS. Hollingsworth Road and remain on it for one mile.
For the north entrance, take Exit 283 off I-81 for Woodstock, then go east on VA-42, W. Reservoir Road. Cross over U.S. Route 11 (S. Main Street), staying on E. Reservoir Road before turning left onto S. Water Street. Turnright onto Hollingsworth Road, then turn right ontoon Lupton Road and remain on it for 0.7 miles.
Park features include:
·Car-top boat launches suitable for canoes and kayaks are located at both access sites of Seven Bends State Park. The two launches are approximately 3 river miles apart and generally take 1-2 hours to float depending on conditions.
·The Park has one, single family-sized picnic shelter located at the north access site (Lupton Rd). The shelter includes one 16’ picnic table and a group sized charcoal grill. The shelter is occupied on a first-come, first-serve basis.
·The Park has 8 miles of hiking/biking trails. Just over two miles of trail liealong the "seven bends” of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The remaining trails take you on the western slope of Powell Mountain, part of the Massanutten Mountain Range. Talus Trail connects visitors to the Massanutten Trail in the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest. Go Hike Virginia has a good overview of the Park’s trails, including clear pictures of trailheads and other orienting views. The Park Trail Guide provides information on its eight trails, including mileage and level of difficulty. Additional pictures of the Park can be seen here.
·Trail renovations are currently being conducted on Gokotta Trail at the Lupton Access site. Sections of this trail may be closed.
·Although motorized vehicles are not permitted on park trails, electric wheelchairs and electric scooters that meet the federal definition for wheelchairs are allowed to enable people with disabilities to use the trails.
·The ‘seven bends’ section of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River features unique geology and landscape that promotes productive fishing and provides pleasant scenery for floating. The river is relatively small and shallow making it accessible to wade angling. The most sought after fish on the North Fork is the smallmouth bass. Other sportfish species include sunfish, fallfish, largemouth bass, and muskellunge. A Virginia freshwater fishing license is required.
·Special note: There are no designated swimming areas. Swimming is hazardous because of swift currents, sudden drop-offs and unseen obstructions.
·The picnic shelter and picnic pads are accessible via crushed stone paths and have wheelchair-accessible picnic tables. Day-use restrooms are also accessible.
- The park is pet friendly and, of course, pets must be on a leash at all times.
·The Park has nature and history programs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Click here to view all parks' events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
The Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River serves as the "community support organization” for Seven Bends State Park and conducts business as the Friends of Seven Bends State Park. Their mission is to keep the North Fork of the Shenandoah River clean, healthy, and beautiful through advocacy, community action, education, and science.
They play an important role in supporting the park with community engagement, advocacy and fundraising. To join or learn more about the group or volunteer, click here.
Next month’s featured park: Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania
Help in identifying birds by their song – there’s an app for that!
Everyone has struggled to identify a bird that you hear singing so clearly but cannot seem to sight it in your binoculars. Here are two apps (both free) that are great tools when you’re out birding:
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is working with the Chemnitz University of Technology to provide tools to conservationists, biologists and birders to help identify birds by sound. Their new app – called BirdNet – is under construction and currently features 984 of the most common species of North America and Europe. It is available for android and iPhone. Once you record a bird song, you select "analyze” and the song is uploaded to the research folks. If they identify a likely bird they ask you for your input. So you’re actually helping them improve the app! It’s a win-win and really helpful. Be sure to check it out the next time you hear that bird but just can’t see it!
Song Sleuthis a bird song identification assistant, created by Wildlife Acoustics, Inc and launched in February 2017. With just a couple of taps your iPhone will suggest what species of bird is singing. The app covers over 200 of the most frequently heard species of birds in North America, and includes a full set of reference recordings as well as information about each species’ appearance, habits, and status. It is designed as a learning tool, to help introduce people to the wonderful world of bird songs.
Want to get more ideas on learning about nature? Have questions? Want to receive our newsletter? Go to the Old Rag Master Naturalist website. Information, activities and books of special interest to parents and teachers is at ORMN’s Resources for Parents and Teachers.
Master Naturalist Bonnie Beers, Seven Bends State Park Chief Ranger Thomas Stevens, and Kara Asboth, Virginia State Parks Western Region, Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation contributed to this article.