C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area

Important Notices

COVID-19 & the VBWTBefore heading out to visit a site on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail, be sure to check if that site has any COVID-19 policies or closures in place. This information is typically posted on a site's own website.


The Phelps Wildlife Management Area offers some opportunities not readily available other places. Bird-dog field trials are held here regularly, providing an experience in watching man’s friend at his best. Most of this management area’s 4,539 acres are forested, but over 1,000 of these acres are open, the result of their past use for agriculture. Additional openings are found within the area’s forested land. Most of the area is rolling with low hills and shallow valleys. The steepest land occurs near the State Scenic Rappahannock River which created the property’s sandy, level bottomland, and now forms much of the property’s western boundary. Several small streams cross the area and a three-acre pond is located near the center of the property. Probably the most interesting habitat feature is the 15-acre waterfowl impoundment, located along the Rappahannock River. The impoundment can be reached by taking Rt. 651 to Rt. 632 to the hunter access trail leading to the sighting-in range. From the parking area at the end of the trail, go through the gate and follow the main trail (bearing right and going down a hill) until reaching the impoundment, approx. 1/2 mile.

The large expanses of grassland provide opportunities here to see grassland birds that are attracted to the abundant habitat. Eastern kingbirds, purple martins, northern bobwhite, and eastern meadowlarks are all found here. During February and March, watch for the intricate courtship rituals of the American woodcock and the ‘peenting’ sounds that accompany their amazing spiral flights. In the wooded areas, most of the common woodpeckers occur. Toward the end of summer, near the river, visitors should watch for bald eagles feeding over the open water or perching in large trees along the banks. River otter are also a common visitor along the river. These playful creatures were once almost completely extirpated from Virginia, but now are increasing in population in many parts of the state.


  • 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.


From the intersection of US 29 and US 17 south of Warrenton follow US 17 South for 9.2 miles to Rt. 634. Turn right on Rt. 634 and continue for about 1.0 miles to Rt. 637. Continue straight ahead onto Rt. 637 and follow it for it for 1.3 miles to Rt. 651. Turn left onto Rt. 651 and follow it for 0.7 miles to the main entrance to the WMA.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries - Region 4 office: 540-899-4169, birdingtrail@dgif.virginia.gov
  • Website
  • Access: Daily. Restore the Wild Membership, hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.

Birds Recently Seen at C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area (as reported to eBird)

  • Canada Goose
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • White-breasted Nuthatch

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Fee
  • Parking