James River State Park

Description

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this state park features rolling grasslands, quiet forests, and beautiful views as well as 3 miles of shoreline along the James River. Visitors often refer to the beautiful 1500-acre wildlife park as “Virginia’s best kept secret.” Whether watching American rubyspots at Dixon Landing, or enjoying the view of the wetland impoundments resident wading birds and waterfowl from the wheelchair accessible viewing deck, there is something for birders of all interests and abilities.

Take a stroll around Green Hill Pond, one of three small ponds within the park, on the 1/4-mile wheelchair accessible trail. Search the open woods for flocks of chipping sparrows or wintering dark-eyed juncos. From there, take one of the numerous trails down along the river through a series of extensive wetlands. Search the overgrown meadows for indigo buntings and check thickets carefully for common yellowthroats and house wrens.

The Wetland Trail is a great area to find widow skimmer and common whitetail dragonflies, which are usually spotted as their black and white patterns shift back and forth across the path. As you wander the trails, be sure to check overhead for a migrating monarch or a majestic bald eagle, briefly joining the red-shoulder or red-tailed hawks and northern harriers overhead.

To explore each of these habitats, a recommended 2-mile birding route begins just below the visitor center at the parking lot for Green Hill Pond. Begin by walking down a short gravel road toward the river and turning off it to the left to pick up the River Trail. You will traverse the edge of a large wetland which is excellent for ducks in winter and green and great blue herons in summer. You will soon hit the banks of the James River and the combination of the river and the tall canopy you walk under, will present many species of songbirds. From here, there are two places where you can turn left off the river and take the Cabell Creek Connector Trail back to Green Hill Pond, passing along small open slopes with views into the wetlands below and into hardwood slopes above. In addition to the birds, many wildflowers await you in season.

Note: To access any of the three ponds at the site, a Restore the Wild Membership, Virginia hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.

Directions

Physical Address: 104 Green Hill Dr., Gladstone, VA 24553

From U.S. 60 West in Buckingham County, turn right onto Route 605/Riverside Dr. at the James River Bridge. Travel 7 miles, then turn left onto Route 606.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: 434-933-4355; JamesRiver@dcr.virginia.gov
  • Website
  • Access: Park: Fee, open sunrise to sunset daily. Ponds: Restore the Wild Membership, hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.

Birds Recently Seen at James River State Park (as reported to eBird)

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Mourning Dove
  • Wilson's Snipe
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Blue Jay

Seasonal Bird Observations

Facilities

  • Visitor/Nature Center
  • Bike Trails
  • Camping
  • Environmental Study Area
  • Fee
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Information
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Kayak/Canoe Launch
  • Canoe/Kayak Rentals
  • Boat Ramp