Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

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  • Site Contact: (276) 865-4413
  • Site Access: Daily, sunrise-sunset; admission fee required
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Site MLP03: Breaks Interstate Park


Elevation: 1978 ft, Breaks Interstate Park encompasses 4500 acres of land, nestled within the Cumberland Mountain Overthrust Block in Kentucky and Virginia. The centerpiece of this park, and its namesake, is the deeply cut chasm through Pine Mountain, carved by the raging waters of southward flowing Russell Fork. At 5.0 miles long and 1000 to 2200 feet deep, this is the largest canyon in the United States east of the Mississippi River. Whitewater rafting can be intense, and in October, Russell Fork offers up to Class VI rapids. This is a magnificently scenic site, with dramatic 600-vertical foot sandstone outcrops overlooking unbridled torrents. Wildlife abounds in habitats that traverse cliff-sides and rugged terrain, montane forests, river bottoms, rhododendron thickets, grassy meadows, ponds and lakes. Breaks Interstate Park is a full-service park, with camping areas, lodging facilities, picnic shelters, a conference center, an amphitheatre, pool, 17 hiking and walking trails (a total of 13 miles), numerous overlooks, and a driving loop. Bird-watching can be spectacular year-round, especially during migration. Trails which meander through mature forests and rhododendron thickets should produce a variety of migratory neotropical passerines in both spring and fall. In fall, the many overlooks within this park should also produce optimal views of hawks in migration. During the summers, this park is home to a large number of nesting neotropical songbirds. In addition to yellow-breasted chat, northern parula, Louisiana waterthrush, common yellowthroat, and hooded and Kentucky warblers, look for black-throated green, worm-eating, black-throated blue, and Swainson's warblers. Other breeding birds include blue-gray gnatcatcher, cedar waxwing, white-eyed, yellow-throated, and blue-headed vireos, white-breasted nuthatch, yellow-billed cuckoo, and great crested flycatcher. Ruffed grouse, wild turkey, and northern bobwhite also nest within the park. Laurel Lake provides a welcomed resting spot for migrating waterfowl. In addition to the wonderful birding, the Breaks offers naturalists opportunities to view a large diversity of other wildlife. Gray treefrog, mountain chorus, green, and wood frogs are common residents of this park. Ring-necked snake, eastern milk snake, northern copperhead, and the handsome timber rattlesnake can all be found in appropriate habitat within the park. Though secretive and inclined to keep a good distance from heavily trafficked areas, one may have an opportunity to spy white-tailed deer, red fox, bobcat, or black bear. Nocturnal mammals, such as little brown, big brown and hoary bats also take residence within the park.


From Poplar Gap Park, turn left onto Rt. 604 and follow it for approximately 5.0 miles to US 460. Turn left on US 460 West and follow it for 1.0 miles to Rt. 609 and turn left, heading west 9.4 miles to Rt. 768. Turn left on Rt. 768 and go 0.2 miles to SR 80. Turn left on SR 80, traveling south 0.6 miles to the park entrance on the right.

Loop Map