PCT03: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Tailrace Park – John H. Kerr Dam & Reservoir
Tailrace Park sits just below John H. Kerr (Buggs Island) Dam and Reservoir. This area is an excellent vantage point to explore the outlet for the reservoir and the resultant stream of the Roanoke River leading to Lake Gaston. The turbulent waters immediately below the dam attract dozens of double-crested cormorants to feast on the abundance of fish in the area. These are often joined by a crowd of great blue herons, equally eager to feast on the river’s bounty. This area attracts even more excitement in the winter, when innumerable ring-billed gulls congregate and occasionally bring herring, Bonaparte’s, or even more uncommon gulls in the flock. The cormorants are often joined by common mergansers that enjoy the deep, clear waters of the reservoir. Perhaps what Tailrace Park is best known for however, are its eagles. At times during the winter months, scenes of Tailrace Park include over a dozen bald eagles, a scene reminiscent more of Alaska than Virginia. Bald eagles can be found year-round although the large numbers are present only in the winter. These treasures join the numerous ospreys gliding overhead amongst the more common turkey vultures.
Check the pinewoods in the park for pine warblers and potentially three species of nuthatch at different times of the year. When visiting Tailrace Park, be sure to check the fence and power lines along SR 4/Buggs Island Road for loggerhead shrikes which are regularly seen in the area. The banks of the river are thick in passion flower and honeysuckle vines that host hackberry emperors, viceroys, clouded sulphurs and other butterflies. Dragonflies to keep an eye out for include common whitetail and a host of clubtails and cruisers on the river.
Leaving the Dick Cross WMA, return to SR 4 and turn left, and continuing 0.8 miles to Tailrace Park on the left. There is a signed entrance road on the left. Make a short left into Tailrace Park. The observation deck is located just north of the picnic shelter in the pines along the Roanoke River Bank.