For those who follow this blog – and all readers – check out our new page with information on how our young visitors can become Shenandoah River State Park Junior Rangers.
Thanks to a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, the Park embarked on a rehab of the native plant garden that welcomes visitors. We got a whole lot done this year and the garden will be fantastic this spring.
Work began in early 2019 with pruning and weeding. In May path lighting was upgraded from often-not-working solar to low-voltage LED.
In June the stepping stones (a nice natural pathway but more-often-than-not ignored resulting in muddy dirt paths) to the garden’s two Koi viewing benches were replaced with stone dust paths.
Signage was installed recognizing the generosity of the Garden Club of Virginia and the work of the many groups and individuals who have made it happen.
Periodic weeding continued (several individuals doing community service hours were a considerable help) and in late June an energetic group of young ladies from the Langley School (McLean, VA) kicked off replanting of native perennials and shrubs.
The Garden Club of Warren County, Park Friends, and Park staff continued planting in July. Several of the Club members contributed plants from their home gardens. A new garden shed to house tools was purchased and installed. A new trellis was built and installed to host a Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Very dry conditions gave us a challenge in keeping new plants alive – after a lot of work we think most will survive.
In late September a crew began replanting at the day-use rest room area. Several new trees and shrubs will make a big difference to Park users.
Work is presently underway to create new pathways to the several picnic areas that adjoin the Visitor Center. These will have wood borders and stone dust fill like the paths to the Koi pond. This work should be completed before spring.
In the spring we will evaluate plantings and replace and add where needed. We will install educational signage to identify plants and give a little information about them and the animals they attract.
Thanks to all who have helped – The Garden Club of Virginia, the Garden Club of Warren County, the Friends of Shenandoah River State Park, Burner Electrical Service, Fort Valley Nursery, Hill House Nursery, our fantastic Park Staff, and many individuals. We will be looking for your continued help this spring.
With perfect weather, about 150 hikers, and numerous four-legged friends, started 2020 right with a healthy walk followed by refreshments at Shenandoah River’s visitors center. We find it hard to keep a good count because more and more hikers are coming both before and after the set time – they miss the picture but it’s a good way to avoid the starting jam while still enjoying the outdoors. We’ll be back next year but stay healthy and plan to hike often. We have over 24 miles of trails through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.
A great turnout for our annual South Fork river cleanup on Sunday, September 22 – 37 folks on the river and another half dozen on the land crew. As usual, we pulled an amazing amount and assortment of trash from the stretch between Indian Hollow bridge and the Park.
A beautiful day to be on the river. This is always a fun event and a chance to really help our environment. Thanks to Front Royal Outdoors and Downriver Canoe Company for use of canoes, thanks to Park staff for hauling everything to the transfer station, and special thanks to all who participated. We’ll be back next September – those canoes are waiting.
It was a GREAT two weeks and Shenandoah River State Park has two new teams of Junior Rangers. We kicked off learning about pollination and pollinators, especially bees. A visit to the Parks new 1 acre pollinator meadow and bee habitat allowed some close up study.
A big treat was a visit to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center where we got to see what a fantastic job they do with rehabilitation of injured animals. It was the first time most of our campers had been to the new facility.
A highlight every year is our float down the South Fork learning and having fun. Due to slightly high water, the first week we went in rafts. The second week we returned to tubing.
Graduation day was filled with Ranger Megan’s great presentation on snakes and sessions on Leave No Trace, both of which the campers really got into.
The Junior Ranger Day Camp is sponsored jointly by the Park and it’s Friends group. The Park also has a self-guided program where pre-teens can become Junior Rangers. Just ask at the Visitor’s Center. We are looking forward to next years camp and hope you will join us. Check back here in the spring for more information.
By Friends President, Richard Fox
The Blue Bell Trail along the river just upstream of the Canoe Landing parking area has been upgraded. The trail has been rerouted a short distance up the hillside from the old trail, which closely followed the small stream coming off the river just above the Canoe Landing. The old trail regularly flooded during heavy rains and high river levels. The new trail will keep hikers high and dry! It’s amazing how much dirt and tree growth was moved while leaving the natural beauty of the area intact. The river bank is still accessible from the new trail, and the old trail now is blended into the wooded area.
Many thanks to Park Rangers Riese Painter and Travis Wyman, as well as the Youth Conservation Corps volunteers, for all their hard work. Come try out the new trail and enjoy one of everyone’s favorite scenic pathways in the Park!
Summer is here and it’s time for another update on the Park pollinator meadow project. As posted earlier, thanks to a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, and the hard work of a lot of other people, the Park has installed a pollinator meadow on a 1.4 acre plot between the RV camping area and the Park cabins. This gentle hillside contains marginal soil, collected when the cabins were built, which is perfect for wildflowers.
In fall 2018 the meadow was cleared, the trails were rough graded, and a parking area built. Park rangers and volunteers seeded the area and by October seedlings were visible.
As an unexpected but very welcome addition to the project, in March 2019 students from Virginia State University and Wake Forest, as part of the alternative spring break program, spent time making benches and tables for the meadow.
In May the bee habitat was added. Solar powered electric fencing was constructed to keep out bears and two hives were installed. Our beekeeper, Kelly, reports that the bees are happy, healthy, and making honey. Flowers abound and its only the early birds. By fall – wow – come and see! Our upcoming Junior Ranger program will feature a day with the meadow and our pollinators. A pollinator is an animal that fertilizes plants by moving pollen from one flower to another. Insect pollinators include bees, wasps, ants, flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, and beetles. Without pollinators many plants and foods would not exist. Pollinators are critical in the reproduction of many major food crops, including Virginia staples, apples and grapes. Other wildlife like rabbits, turkey, and deer can use the seeds and insects for food and can use the tall grasses for shelter.
The meadow, originally proposed by Park manager Tony Widmer, became possible when the Garden Club of Warren County proposed that the Park apply for a grant from the Garden Club of Virginia, which has accumulated a fund dedicated to projects in Virginia State Parks. With help from the Friends of Shenandoah River State Park, the Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah, and Park staff a plan was developed, submitted, and funding was approved.
Stay tuned for more news as the meadow grows.