This 2.6 mile rail trail (5.2 miles down-and-back) has a lot to offer wildlife enthusiasts as well as history buffs. The trailhead is located at Cotton Mill Park near the former cotton industry of South Boston, featuring two brick towers and the remains of an old cotton mill. Just a little ways down the trail at the spur, you will see a sight to peak your curiosity – an old sluice gate, once raised and lowered to control water levels. The trail is mostly wooded with hardwoods and a few pines scattered throughout. The one side of the old railroad bed is upland forest and the other side is floodplain along the Dan River. Watch for resident vireos, thrushes, sparrows, woodpeckers, belted kingfisher, and raptors; red-tailed, red-shouldered, cooper’s, sharp-shinned, osprey, and bald eagles have all been observed. During summer, additional songbirds to look for include blue grosbeak, orchard oriole, summer tanager, and yellow-breasted chat. In spring and fall, keep your eyes open for a variety of migrating warblers. The trail ends at the Dan River where you may see wood ducks or grebes dabbling along the shallow river.
From spring to early fall, the trail has an abundance of wildflowers that can be seen along with various species of butterflies and dragonflies along the trail’s shoulders. In late winter one can hear, and with a little luck, might see spring frogs calling. A variety of reptiles as well as a coyote and even a solitary black bear have been seen on the trail.
Parking and trailhead are located at Cotton Mill Park.
Physical Address: 196 Railroad Ave., South Boston, VA 24592.
From the Previous Site on the Dan River Loop of VBWT:
From Paul C. Edmunds, Jr. Memorial Park, return back to US 360 and go west. Follow US 360 west to US 58 and turn right (west) towards South Boston. Turn right onto Main St and continue 0.3 miles to Broad St; continue on Broad Street 1.0 mile and turn left on Edmunds St toward Colonial Ave 0.6 mi, Turn left on Railroad Ave toward Summit Dr. 0.3 miles.