Highland Wildlife Management Area – Jack Mountain/Buck Hill Road

Description

Elevation: 2392 ft.

This extensive, 14,000+-acre wildlife management area encompasses a diversity of habitats and wildlife. Altitude within this site spans over 2000 feet, with the lowest elevation of 1800 feet along Bullpasture River to over 4000 feet at the top of Sounding Knob on the Jack Mountain Tract. In addition to riverine habitats, this site offers mature oak-hickory hardwood forests, mixed woodlands, red spruce stands, and early succession fields. Due to the varied habitats and elevation, the diversity of nesting migrants includes scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, and Kentucky, hooded, black-throated blue, and black-throated green warblers. Common resident avian resident species include pileated woodpecker, ruffed grouse, and red-shouldered hawk. Wild turkey is also abundant throughout this area. Birding is typically best in the spring and fall, when migrant thrushes, warblers, and vireos are numerous.

Black bear, as well as red and gray foxes, make their homes in these woods, but are often elusive to the onlooker. Look for salamanders such as northern dusky and red-backed salamanders, as well as other amphibians such as pickerel frog.

Since late 2017, the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF), who owns and manages this site, has been improving habitat for golden-winged warblers in four existing forest openings along the WMA’s Jack Mountain ridgeline.  These improvements include connecting two existing openings by removing trees in between them, thus creating a larger, core area of open golden-wing habitat; encouraging shrub growth through natural seed dispersal; and cutting back forest edges to create shrubby conditions. Ultimately, this project seeks to expand habitat for an existing population of golden-winged warblers breeding in the adjacent valley, so that they may colonize new areas and grow in number. In the meantime, these shrubland habitat improvements are also helping a large number of other bird species, including field sparrows, Eastern towhees, brown thrashers and warblers, such as chestnut-sided warbler and yellow-breasted chat.

Notes:

  • To Access the Site: A Restore the Wild Membership, Virginia hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.
  • Hunting could be occurring at this site April 1 – May 31 and September 1 – February 28th, except on Sundays. If you are visiting this site during hunting seasons, please wear blaze orange or blaze pink for safety.

Directions

Location: off SR 615/ Davis Run Rd., Warm Springs, VA 24484

There are two entrances accessible via SR 615/ Davis Run Rd. If open, a red gate leads down Buck Hill Rd deeper into the area. Slightly further north, taking Davis Run Rd leads to a clearing with parking.

From I-64 in Charlottesville/Waynesboro, continue west and take the I-81 S exit toward I-64 W/Lexington/Roanoke. Then, take exit 220 for SR 262 toward US 11. Continue onto SR 262 N for 6.6 miles. Take the US 250/Churchville Ave exit and turn left (northwest). In 30.9 miles, turn left (west) onto SR 678 and continue for 2.7 miles. Turn right (west) onto SR 615 and continue for 1.7 miles to Buckhill Rd and Davis Run Rd.

From the previous site on the Little Switzerland Loop of the VBWT:

From Cloud Hill Farm, return to US 220 N and follow it to US 250 E in Monterey. Drive east 7.8 miles to SR 615. Turn right and travel south on SR 615 for about 2.4 miles to Davis Run Rd and Buckhill Rd.