Visitors to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge may experience this linear refuge in any number of ways, depending upon who — or what — they are.
For some, the refuge represents outdoors recreation opportunities for all ages and all abilities provided by the access to water and wildlife — a respite from our on-demand digital age.
But for the animals, birds, amphibians and fish that live year-round in its wetlands, forests and fields, or migrate here to breed in the spring and summer or find food during the winter, it is a refuge from the encroachment of human development.
Capt. John Smith may, or may not have been the first “tourist” to see Fones Cliffs on the Rappahannock River; there were Spaniards in the Chesapeake before him. But he was the first that we know of who wrote about them.
On Aug. 19, 1608, Smith and a dozen crewmen sailed up the river past the cliffs. They were not well-received.
If you pull a fan-shaped shell from a stream in southeastern Virginia this summer — especially if that stream lies east of Interstate 95 — pay attention.
You may have found the trace of an ocean ecosystem that covered the Virginia coastal plain 4.5 million years ago.
Officially known as the Chesapecten jeffersonius, this scallop shell became the state fossil of Virginia in 1993. Lauck Ward, curator emeritus at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, helped to name it.
Drive up to Schnaitman’s Boat Rentals in Wye Mills, MD, and it’s as if you stepped back in time.
Even on a windy day, the Wye River is calm. Couples from New Jersey and Pennsylvania idle away the day in skiffs and rowboats, crab traps and lines overboard, hoping to catch some dinner. When they do, they bring it in, and Schnaitman’s steams up the catch — some of the fattest, prettiest crabs one’s likely to see in a long time.
The driver of our pontoon boat cut the motor as we ducked into a marsh branching off the Anacostia River.
Here, the murmur of the city gave way to chirping birds and the greening landscape of Kenilworth Marsh, the only freshwater tidal wetland on the river that has remained largely intact over its complicated history.
Everyone lives on the landscape, in one form or another. Some pause long enough to look at it; a few spend their lives looking deeply through its surface to see what others miss.
Ed Seufert is in the last category. I met Ed during my latest wanderings on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. I wanted to trace the Battle of North Point, where the British launched an attack on Baltimore during the War of 1812. A Baltimore native and re-enactor for the War of 1812, Ed agreed to be my guide.
Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art Festival
Lighthouse Adventure Cruises
Virginia Forest Zipline
5th annual Watermen’s Appreciation Day
Richmond Splash & Dash on the James
Revolutionary London Town
The Pride of Baltimore II
MD Seafood Festival
The Appalachian Trail was conceived in the 1920s as a getaway that would allow East Coast city dwellers to flee to the trail, and trailside communities, to recover from their stressed lives.
Nearly a century later, it appears that’s needed more than ever. Between 2 million to 3 million people hike a portion of the 2,180-mile dirt path each year. There, they can explore forests, watch wildlife and scan mountain vistas — often within a couple of hours from urban centers such as Richmond, the District of Columbia and Baltimore.
Land is not only more complex than we know. It is more complex than we can know but endless fun in the trying.
Explore just a single patch of farm field and woods on different days, in different seasons, with a birdwatcher, a developer, a historian or a soils scientist, a farmer, a child, a beagle. So many countries you’ll see, and no way to see it whole — like looking directly into the sun.