Dutch Gap Conservation Area

Photo Credit: Oliver Pattison

Dutch Gap Conservation Area is an 810-acre environmental treasure which features a bounty of birds, fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. The 4.5 Dutch Gap Trail is a multiuse trail open for hiking, biking and horseback riding. This easy trail takes visitors along bottomlands, meadows, a small pond and wetlands and circumnavigates the tidal lagoon.

Considered by the Audubon Society to be one of the top birding sites in Virginia, Dutch Gap contains a large heron rookery, bald eagles and other hard-to-find species. According to the county website, bird-watching is superb in all seasons. Wetlands and ponds attract gadwalls, pintails, widgeons, ringnecks, Canada geese, kingfisher, osprey and bald eagles. Meadows draw sparrows, goldfinches, indigo buntings, eastern bluebirds, kingbirds and sparrow hawks. Forests are filled with the songs of red-eyed vireo, scarlet tanagers, crested flycatchers, American redstart and more. Many birders come to witness the heron rookery located in the tidal lagoon or to observe bald eagles. Two observation platforms along the entrance road provide views of many aquatic species throughout the year.

Paddlers will enjoy the 2.5-mile Lagoon Water Trail. There they’ll experience the tidal waters of the James River and learn how the lagoon was created, as well as observe the “graveyard” of barges, wetlands, many islands and the heron rookery. The trail provides a safe, flat-water environment and is suitable for beginners.

Anglers can fish along the River Trail and at five docks situated throughout the conservation area (Henricus Dock, Sycamore Dock, Cypress Dock, Horsetail Dock and Pond Dock). The tidal waters include freshwater fish such as small and largemouth bass and blue catfish along with migratory species such as striped bass and American shad.

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