Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Car Free DC: Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows Park is 1,425 acre park of wetlands, meadows, and forest just south of the Beltway in Fairfax County. The varied environments create wonderful habitat for wildlife, including over 200 species of birds, as well as beavers, otters, frogs, dragonflies, and other wetland-loving animals.

The core attraction of the park is a .7-mile boardwalk trail from the visitor's center, through the wetland area, to an observation tower.There is also a network of official and unofficial trails through the park that will take you through woodland and wildflower meadows. This map is the most thorough I've been able to find; the official map centers on the boardwalk and the Cedar Trail, which creates a loop.

The fate of Huntley Meadows has been under debate. The wetlands are in decline, but there is controversy over whether humans or nature can better restore them. The current plan is to build an artificial dam that will do the work of beavers who have moved further downstream.

Getting there: From Huntington Avenue Metro station, you can take Fairfax Connector Bus 161 or 162 to the main entrance of the park; it's another .3 mile to the visitor center.

Huntley Meadows is a little over 3.5 miles from the beltway -- take exit 177A (Richmond Highway /Route 1) and go south to a right on Lockheed Boulevard. The park entrance is approximately a half mile down at Harrison Lane.

Admission & Hours: Free. Open dawn to dark every day. See website for visitor center hours.

Bikes: Bicycling is not permitted on the boardwalk trail from the visitor center. However, there is a hiker-biker trail which has a separate entrance to the park at South Kings Highway near Telegraph Road. This 1.2 mile trail ends at another observation tower.

Dogs:
Aren't allowed on the boardwalk, but are allowed on other trails.

Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22306
703-768-2525

Like the photos in this post? Mouse over for credits; a click takes you to the photographer on Flickr.

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