Eastham Park Trail and Front Royal Boat Landing
Elevation: 438 ft.
This location provides easy access to viewing wildlife along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, either by launching a boat at the public boat landing on Luray Avenue or by walking along the relatively new Eastham Park Trail, which begins at Eastham Park and travels 0.51 miles along the river.
Look in the river’s riffles for native bass and sun perch. In spring and summer, look for an abundance of mallards, wood ducks and herons with spotted sandpipers and woodcock on the riverbanks and Baltimore orioles nesting in nearly every riverside sycamore. In winter, watch for red-headed ducks and bald eagles. During migration, snow geese, swans and eagles may be seen, with huge numbers of broad-winged hawks and monarch butterflies passing en masse in mid-September. Riverside wildflowers, such as cardinal flower with their attendant hummingbirds, are plentiful, as are swallowtails of all sorts puddling along the river. You may also be lucky enough to spot America’s largest butterfly, the giant swallowtail, whose far northern range includes this site.
For those wishing to explore more of the Eastham Park Trail, which continues another 0.51 miles and ends at Skyline Vista Drive, continue your journey by walking under the Norfolk Southern Railway track through a woodland and on past Skyline High School. (Still under development, once the trail is fully completed, it will continue on toward Route 340/522, where users will be able to access the northern end of Shenandoah National Park or continue north to Criser Rd.) Common woodland bird species can be seen, such as woodpeckers and carolina wrens, as well as open country species, such as American woodcock and wild turkey, along with abundant white-tailed deer and an occasional black bear. Also of interest on the site, although only viewable from the outside, are two karst caves and a sinkhole, in which dwells the rare, threatened, Madison Cave Isopod, a tiny crustacean that lives in underground water sources.
Much is in store for the future of this site. The Eastham Park Trail serves as a section of the larger Royal Shenandoah Greenway (RSG). Eventually the Greenway, with Eastham Park as the access point, will be connected with the evolving new Avtex Fibers Superfund Site Conservancy Park, a 240-acre land conservancy north of the public boat landing that extends along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. This EPA superfund site has been in the process of being converted from a former rayon factory manufacturing site to an ecological conservancy park. It will include a mixed habitat of wetlands, butterfly-friendly meadows and hardwoods.
From the Previous Site on the Front Royal Loop of VBWT:
From the Northern Virginia 4-H Center, return to US 522 North and follow it north 1.4 miles to Criser Rd. Turn left on Criser Rd. and continue 1.2 miles to Luray Road. Turn left onto Luray Road and travel 0.2 miles to the river and parking.