Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MCM02: Saltville Well Fields
Elevation: 1729 ft. Saltville Well Fields offers a unique habitat for the mountain region of Virginia. The waters of these wetlands are brackish, providing the only inland saline marshes in Virginia. It is a popular venue for fisherman, who can be found fishing along the grassy banks around the lakes. This site is one of the best places to find migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in mountains of Virginia. Snow and Ross's geese, grebes, northern pintail, American black duck, American wigeon, and green-winged teal are regular visitors. The surrounding woodlands can produce migratory warblers, thrushes, and vireos. Canada geese take permanent residence here, as do other feral ducks and geese. Due to the unusual hydrology of this area and the dispersion of coastal plant species by migratory waterfowl, vegetation of this area is inclusive of both freshwater and saltwater communities. In addition to cattail, swamp rose mallow, swamp milkweed, and duckweed typical of freshwater marshes, halophytic vegetation such as sedge or saltmarsh bulrush, black-grass, and spearscale can also be found here. In addition to having tremendous historical significance, this saltlick is the site of summer paleo-archaological digs. Fossils from the Ice Age have been found here, including mastodon, woolly mammoth, giant ground sloth, musk ox, and stag moose. Over thirty species of spring wildflowers can be seen near the Palmer Mill Springs, including the infrequent wood poppy.
From Hungry Mother State Park, return to SR 16 North and follow it 9.5 miles to SR 42. Turn left on SR 42 and follow 9.7 miles to SR 91. Turn left on SR 91 South, traveling for 7.0 miles, then bear left on Palmer Avenue in Saltville. Continue on Palmer Avenue for 0.4 miles to Lake Drive. Turn right and follow this road to the entrance to the Saltville Well Fields.