Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MED06: Mountain Lake Resort
Elevation: 3874 ft. Situated in the Allegheny Mountains of southwest Virginia, Mountain Lake Resort is located on 2600 acres of rolling mountains and hardwood forests. At the center of this landscape is the spring-fed Mountain Lake, one of only two natural lakes in Virginia (the other is Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge). Unlike most natural lakes, Mountain Lake was not formed by glacial activity. It is believed that several thousands of years ago, a rockslide dammed a narrow valley in which cool mountain springs filled to form a lake at a depth of 100 feet. Today, the temperature of these waters rarely exceeds 72º F. The adjacent 11,113 acres of woodlands around the lake and hotel are governed and maintained as part of the Mountain Lake Wilderness Conservancy Area. Numerous trails provide hiking enthusiasts with a myriad of habitats to explore. The Gift Shop within the hotel complex offers trail maps. Along the 1.7-mile Indian Trail that circles the lake, nesting Canada warbler can be found. Red-backed and northern dusky salamanders are common along the spring-fed streams. In addition to hiking, naturalists can explore the Lower Jungle Trail by horse-drawn carriage. The Bald Knob Trail can be accessed by a pedestrian trail or by vehicle along the 0.7- mile stretch of Bald Knob Road. The peak at Bald Knob stands at 4363 feet. This is a popular spot for watching hawk migration in the fall. Cinnamon and hay-scented ferns are common along the Upper Jungle Trail and provide good cover for scurrying eastern chipmunk and red squirrel. Along this trail, look for chestnut-sided warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak, and scarlet tanager. Several other trails provide access to unique habitat. Ruffed grouse and wild turkey are common throughout, as are white-tailed deer. red fox, bobcat, long-tailed weasel. Black bear may be lurking through the woods, but are often difficult to spy. Fowler's and American toads and gray treefrogs keep a low profile within these woods as well. The Mountain Lake Wilderness lies squarely on the Eastern Continental Divide. Precipitation on the western edge is carried away by stream runoffs that empty into the New River, flowing onward to the Ohio River and emptying into the Mississippi River. Precipitation on the eastern edge flows eastward, flowing into the James River, into Chesapeake Bay, and eventually, into the Atlantic Ocean.
From Pandapas Pond, return to US 460 West, turn left, and travel west 3.8 miles to Rt. 700/Mountain Lake Road. Turn right onto Rt. 700/Mountain Lake Road and continue for 6.7 miles uphill towards the mountain.