Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: (276) 328-2931, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Site Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; admission free
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Site MBS04: Roaring Branch
Elevation: 1610 ft., This is a phenomenal site for any nature enthusiast. The trail follows a drainage confluence that feeds into the Powell River and forms the first 3.0 miles of the easternmost section of the 14.3-mile Stone Mountain Trail. The mouth of Roaring Branch offers views of the cascading stream along a steep-sided, limestone ravine. The area is heavily wooded by 200-year old eastern hemlock, as well as yellow poplar, yellow birch, and Fraser magnolia. Rhododendron thickets line the banks of the stream, providing a dense understory. On the upslope of the trail, the flora changes into more open deciduous woodlands with old growth oaks and hickories. A series of moss-covered rock stairs, constructed by the Youth Conservation Corps in the 1970s, forms the first mile of this trail. The walk can be slippery in some places, and the climb is rather steep, so take it slowly. If you can divert your eyes from the spectacular scenery that surrounds you, look to the ground for colorful millipedes, slow-moving eastern box turtle, and wandering red eft. In addition to the great scenery, the cool temperatures of a canopied streamside creek, and the verdant, lush foliage that surrounds the area, Roaring Branch is a birder's paradise, especially for lovers of neotropical songbirds. Easily found species include American redstart, black-throated green, Canada and Kentucky warblers, white-breasted nuthatch, Louisiana waterthrush, blue-headed vireo, and scarlet tanager. This site also contains the largest breeding population of Swainson's warblers known on the Ranger District. The national Breeding Bird Survey annually monitors this site.
Leaving Bullitt Park, return along E. 1st Street to Wood Avenue. Turn left on Wood Avenue/US 58 Alternate. Follow Wood Avenue for four blocks to E. 5th Street. Turn left on E. 5th Street/US 23 Business and continue 1.3 miles to the site entrance/trailhead. The site entrance is located on the west side of a sharp curve in the highway, across from the Powell River, just before going under a railroad trestle. There is a sign beside a set of rock steps going up beside Roaring Branch, next to the bridge that Roaring Branch goes under to meet the Powell River. Caution is advised at this site due to the usually heavy traffic; it could be hazardous for pedestrians. There is space for two cars to park alongside the highway.