Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: (276) 328-2931, Clinch Ranger District
- Site Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; admission fee required
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Site MAW07: High Knob Recreation Area
Elevation: 4263 ft., Want to hear four species of thrushes singing all at once? How about seeing more black-throated-blue warblers than you can count on two hands? Located atop Powell Mountain, High Knob is perhaps what most birders would call a local neotropical songbird paradise. At elevations over 3500 feet, birders can find some of the same migrant species that typically breed in spruce-fir forests in the Blue Ridge. The focal point of the recreation area is a 4-acre lake surrounded by a lakeshore trail. High Knob Lake is located at the headwaters of the Mountain Fork drainage. More mature hardwoods such as American beech, sugar maple, black birch, and northern red oak forest the adjacent woodlands. Creekside areas are dominated by eastern hemlock interspersed with dense rhododendron thickets. Warbler and thrush diversity can be phenomenal during the breeding season. In addition to scarlet tanager, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue, and black-throated green warblers, as well as rose-breasted grosbeak, and dark-eyed juncos, you may also spy magnolia and Blackburnian warblers here. Recent years have produced summer sightings of least flycatcher and red-breasted nuthatch. In summers, ruffed grouse and wild turkey can be seen traveling with their young. Of course, both spring and fall migration are optimal at such a high elevation. Hawk watchers can enjoy good views of migrating broad-winged hawks from the observation tower in fall. Winter birding can be just as rewarding, with an occasional rarity such as snow bunting. In addition to the great birding, other wildlife abounds. White-tailed deer are plentiful, while the red fox remains secretive. Both ravine and mountain dusky salamanders can be found in seepages and other wet areas. Red efts, terrestrial form of the red-spotted newt, crawl along dampened woodland floors. From the recreation area, hike the High Knob Tower Trail (< 1.5 miles) to the observation tower. Atop this summit, standing at 4220 feet, a clear sky can produce views of the surrounding mountain ridges in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. Note: the observation tower burned down recently and is inaccessible to visitors at this time (updated 12/19/07).
From Glady Fork Wetlands, return left to Rt. 706/Robinson Knob Road, turn left and go 1.2 miles to FR 238. Veer left on FR 238 and go 4.2 miles to the entrance road to High Knob on the left. Turn left into the High Knob entrance and follow the road 1.7 miles to the recreation area.