Dora Kelley Nature Park
Dora Kelley Nature Park is an excellent example of conscientious urban planning and conservation efforts. Though surrounded by urban sprawl, this 50-acre nature preserve is a woodland gem nestled in the Holmes Run Stream Valley Gorge. This park is a prime birding spot any time of the year. Some species frequently seen in the park include tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, belted kingfisher, and several woodpecker species including a nesting pair of pileated woodpeckers. Raptors such as bald eagles, Cooper’s hawks, and barred owls are also seen in the park. Occasionally, there have also been wild turkey sightings.
A one-mile long meandering nature trail leads to a spectacular upland oak-hickory forest with mountain laurel scattered throughout the sub-canopy. The understory is open and there is great plant diversity. The accompanying self-guided booklet is available at the Nature Center and interprets the natural features of the park using numbered signposts along the trail. The accessible park entrance at Sanger Avenue connects to the Holmes Run Stream Valley Trail, a biking/hiking trail that traverses the park, skirting several seeps, a freshwater marsh and Holmes Run before leading northwest to Columbia Pike or southeast to Eisenhower Avenue. The marsh provides habitat and breeding grounds for several species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and turtles. On an early spring evening, the cacophony of mating calls from the spring peepers and wood frogs can be heard a mile away. Along the stream, riparian species such as river birch and American sycamore dominate the landscape. A small patch of green in an otherwise developed landscape can be a gold mine for hungry, insect-eating passerines during spring. With regular invasive plant management, a great diversity of spring, summer, and fall native wildflowers flourish in their respective habitats, including native orchids, trillium, and Dutchman’s breeches, to name a few.
Physical Address: 5750 Sanger Ave, Alexandria, VA
From Previous Site on the Great Falls Loop of VBWT:
From Hidden Oaks Park and Nature Center, return via Hummer Road to SR 236 East. Travel approximately 3.9 miles to Beauregard Street and take a left. After the turn, the road will fork; veer right at the fork. Follow North Beauregard Street 1.0 miles north to Sanger Avenue. Turn left onto Sanger Avenue and follow it to the dead end at the park. Visit the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center where trail maps and brochures are available.