Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MMR12: Whitetop Laurel Fishing and Viewing Area
Elevation: 2685 ft. Whitetop Laurel Creek flows from Mt. Rogers down into the Holston River. At the Whitetop Laurel Fishing and Viewing Area, the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail converge, providing easy access to the surrounding forests. The creek runs through dense rhododendron thickets with old white pine towering over the creek banks. The trails and overlooks that are found along the course of the stream are excellent vantage points to look for trout, which often come close to the surface from the deeper pools along the stream. Walk the trail along the creek checking the creekside brush for Louisiana waterthrush, which can often be seen flying along the creek. These birds are often joined by Carolina wren, which also frequent streamside brush. Looking higher into the trees, black-throated blue and black-and-white warblers and warbling vireos can be found. Listen for calls from all directions–the sounds of Carolina chickadees ring through the forest. The trails in this area are relatively open and flanked by numerous wildflowers including bee-balm. Spicebush and eastern tiger swallowtails are easily visible as they cruise the paths, while smaller butterflies, like eastern-tailed hairstreak, require a more careful look.
From Skull's Gap Overlook, return to Rt. 603 and turn right. Follow this road west for 2.7 miles to US 58 West. Turn right on US 58 West, continue for 0.7 miles to Rt. 728, and turn left. Continue on Rt. 728 for 1.0 mile to parking area at end of road.