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.
By Charlene Uhl, Old Rag Master Naturalist Chapter
Virginia has 39 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 and Shenandoah Valley areas.
April’s featured park
Shenandoah River State Park
350 Daughter of Stars Dr., Bentonville, Va., 22610 (Warren County)
Open 8 a.m. – dusk
The Shenandoah River State Park (SRSP), also called Andy Guest State Park after the longtime state legislator, is located along the shore of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.
This beautiful park has more than 1,600 acres with 5.2 miles of shoreline and has scenic views not only along the river, but also views of the Massanutten Mountains on the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east; the two ranges define a narrow valley through which the South Fork meanders with multiple bends in a zigzag flow.
SRSP has an extensive 24-mile network of trails, which offer plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding and adventure.
This includes the Cottonwood Trail located at the north end of the Park, mainly a boardwalk that meanders through
some low areas next to the river with numerous vernal pools.
A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, river access and a car-top boat launch make this a popular
destination for families, anglers, and canoeists.
Twelve riverfront tent campsites, a campground with water and electric sites, cabins, camping cabins (yurts) and a
group campground are available.
Wildflowers have begun to bloom along the Cottonwood and Bluebell trails, including Virginia bluebells and spring
ephemeral wildflowers such as Stinking Benjamin and Jefferson Twinleaf.
Read more about the wildflowers you may see in “Spring Has Finally Sprung at Shenandoah River State Park”, from I
Love Virginia State Parks.
The SRSP is well developed and has several picnic shelters, campground sites with water and electricity, cabins, and yurts; most of them are located near or next to the river.
The park also has access areas for portaging canoes and kayaks.
The Visitor Center, located on a beautiful overlook, offers great information about the wildlife that live year-round in the park or are transient visitors. It has an informative taxidermy display of birds, mammals, and reptiles. The rangers at the Visitor Center are helpful and well informed about all that the park offers to the public.
Read one family’s experience at the park, including their cabin and favorite hikes in I Love Virginia State Parks’ series
“Getting to Know Virginia”.
Next month’s featured park: Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane.
CELEBRATE EARTH DAY – April 22
Earth Day is an annual event held on April 22 to honor the Earth. Earth Day is recognized as the largest civic event in the world.
The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 in the United States. Initially planned as a nationwide environmental
teach-in, the event grew to include the over 20 million people in the United States. Over time it expanded to include
countries around the world.
Learn more about the history of Earth Day at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. EPA also has Projects & Ideas for students and teachers. The United Nations celebrates International Mother Earth Day and its website provides information on events around the world.
The Farmer’s Almanac theme for Earth Day 2021 is “Restore Our Earth” and offers activities you can do at home to show your appreciation and respect of Mother Earth. You can also find a ton of stay-at-home Earth Day ideas at Celebrating Earth Day at Home.
So, make a pledge to do something for the Earth on April 22, be it planting a tree, biking instead of driving, conserving water, bringing a reusable shopping bag instead of using a plastic bag, or volunteering in your own community’s Earth Day activities.
The spring bird migration has started!
Many birds are on the move. Birds that left for warmer climate last fall are coming back from Central and South America and even from some of our Southern states. Robins and blackbirds in large groups have already started to come through the Central Piedmont.
The Cornell Lab has Migration Forecast Tools where you can see in real time how many birds are in the air and where they are headed. So be on the lookout for all those birds that wintered down south and are coming back here to breed and raise their young.
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 Naturalists Bonnie Beers, Linda and Alex Bueno and Sam Jensen, Chief Ranger, Shenandoah River State Park contributed to this article.
Photo of Cottonwood Trail boardwalk courtesy of Linda Bueno.