Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MLI02: Bear Mountain Farm and Wilderness Retreat
Elevation: 4350 ft. Bear Mountain Farm and Wilderness Retreat, located on Bear Mountain in the Alleghany Highlands, has the highest mean elevation (approximately 4400 feet) east of the Mississippi River. In this area, three great rivers–the James, Potomac, and Greenbriar–all begin their journeys to the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The extensive Bear Mountain Farm and Wilderness Retreat offers several trails that meander through spring-fed creeks, beaver ponds, mature hardwood forests, and scenic vistas. In addition to being a great getaway site for the naturalist on vacation, this site is also used as a venue for teaching and public education. The flora and fauna of this site are unusual due to its high elevation. In addition to atypical plants such adder's tongue and snow trillium, this site is also home to the endangered northern flying squirrel and snowshoe hare. Nesting avian species include black-capped chickadee, chestnut-sided warbler, and perhaps even horned lark, vesper sparrow, and magnolia warbler. Spring migration can be quite productive for neotropical migrants as well as Brewer's blackbird, and sometimes northern saw-whet owl. Beaver ponds and other wetland habitats can be productive for an assortment of dragonflies and damselflies in the summer. Look for dragonflies such as common green darner and slaty skimmer, as well as damselflies such as Rambur's forktail and common spreadwing. Turning over a few logs may turn up quite a diversity of salamanders. Red-backed, northern dusky, and northern slimy salamanders can be found, as well as other species of the genus Plethodon. Frequent mammals include black bear, red and gray foxes, and bobcat.
From the Blue Grass Valley at the intersection of Rt. 640 and US 250, travel west on US 250 for 6.5 miles to Rt. 601. Turn left on Rt. 601/Bear Mountain Road and continue for 1.5 miles to the gate (end of state maintenance). Continue past the gate for 0.8 miles to the entrance on the left.