Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: (276) 783-5196, email@example.com
- Site Access: Daily, sunrise—sunset; admission fee required
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Site MMR13: Beartree Lake/Campground — Mt. Rogers NRA
Elevation: 3033 ft. The Beartree Recreation Area stretches along the valley of Straight Branch Creek between the Iron Mountains and Whitetop Mountain. The area has developed sites for RV's and camping. Within the area, there are three primary sites worth spending some time in as well as numerous trails that crisscross the region and the surrounding ridge tops. The first of these sites is Beartree Lake, which is reached by going 0.1 miles past the entry gate, turning right, and proceeding 0.3 miles to the parking area. This small lake is easily accessible along a paved loop trail with numerous bridges, making it wheelchair accessible. The lake holds numerous impressively large bullfrogs and their equally impressive tadpoles. The streams that drain into the lake hold trout, making the area popular not only with anglers, but also with belted kingfisher! The woods surrounding the lake support a good variety of woodland birds as well as eastern garter snake, and both gray and red squirrels. The southern end of the lake near the spillway is a good area to search for dragonflies, while butterflies like eastern tiger swallowtails and great spangled fritillaries can appear anywhere around the loop. The second site can be reached by returning to the main park road and turning right, continuing straight for 0.5 miles to the Group Camping area on the left. This area provides access to relatively open hardwood forest with dense undergrowth of hemlock and rhododendron groves interspersed with many small streams. This area is a particular favorite of Canada warblers, several pairs of which nest in the area. The moist areas around streams and seeps hold pickerel frog and mountain dusky salamander. In spring and early summer, the numerous blooms attract several species of butterflies. After continuing on the main park road an additional 0.4 miles, the main campground is reached. This is divided into two loops of campsites Beaver Flats and Chipmunk Circle. Both loops have camp hosts that have numerous bird feeders attracting typical feeder species, ruby-throated hummingbird, and gray and red squirrels. The area also hosts woodpeckers, warblers, veery, and other songbirds. At Beaver Flats, there is a short trail that leads to an active beaver dam. Here, beavers can be seen most easily in late afternoon and early evenings.
From Whitetop Laurel Fishing and Viewing Area, return to US 58 West. Turn left and follow US 58 West for 2.1 miles to FR 837 on the right. Turn right and proceed 0.8 miles to the entrance gate. To return to an interstate, follow FR 837 back to US 58 and turn right. From here, follow US 58 to Damascus and begin the South Holston Loop or continue on for approximately 10 more miles to I-81.