By Emily George
Photos by Leon Boyd
Additional outdoor adventure opportunities that will facilitate the Virginia Elk and wildlife experience in the Appalachia Valley are now open to the public for elk and other wildlife watching. Two viewing stations are now open, and a third viewing station is expected to open in October.
The viewing stations are small, sheltered structures with bench-seating that overlook nearly 400-yards of habitat where there is known elk and other wildlife activity. Each structure can seat up to 25 people. All other wildlife that is thriving on the restored habitat that the viewing stations overlook are commonly visible in addition to the restored Virginia elk.
The viewing stations are located on Buchanan county IDA (Industrial Development Authority) property, which is located near Popular Gap Community Park. Each station was built on a different area of the property overlooking individual “viewing zones,” roughly within 1-mile proximity.
The viewing zones are food plots or restored habitat sanctuaries that were created to attract wildlife by providing resources for them to thrive. Each station has dissimilar viewing opportunities depending on the time of day. Elk, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer are often active. New forage, wild flowers, various bird species and other wildlife are often seen in the viewing zones as well.
Though the viewing platforms sit on Buchanan Co. IDA property, access to these platforms is on property owned by Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures. Trails, camping, lodging, and a visitor’s center are underway on Southern Gap’s property to accommodate anyone interested in traveling to explore the outdoor adventures that Southwest Virginia offers. Southern Gap has few cabins and campsites readily available for lodging now, and they also offer ATV rentals for trail riding. There is access to the viewing stations by this trail.
Each viewing station has parking areas, and visitors will have a about a 100-yard walk to the platform from the parking areas. All viewing platforms are handicapped accessible.
Resources for the viewing platforms were obtainable by DGIF, Southwest Virginia Sportsman’s Club, Noah Horn Well Drilling, and Thompson Group. Volunteers from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Southwest Virginia Chapter (RMEF), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Mountaineer Farms, and Southwest Virginia Sportsman’s Club, donated time and labor to the wildlife habitat restoration work and construction of the stations to ensure they will be open in time to witness the elk thrive in a healthy environment when they are most active in September and October.