|Natural Areas of Prince William County
Parks, Forests, Wildlife Refuges and other Natural Areas
Prince William County includes two national parks, two national wildlife refuges, a state wildlife management area, a state park, a state forest, and a state natural area preserve. In addition, the Occoquan Reservoir and Potomac River are important recreational amenities.
Today there is growing awareness that blending natural and built environments results in more attractive, efficient and sustainable communities. Over the long run, community investments in natural areas create an atmosphere of health and well being, help attract high quality commercial development and enhance the County's economic stability.
Federal, state, business and private investments preserve about 11% of the total county acreage. Nearly all these natural areas are open to the public.
Prince William [National] Forest Park, approximately 15,000 acres, is the largest protected natural area in the D.C. metropolitan region. Located between Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Route 234 corridor, the park preserves a slice of eastern piedmont forest, one of the most heavily altered ecosystems in North America, and protects Quantico Creek, a direct tributary to the Potomac River. As continued growth in our area leads to more development and pollution, Prince William Forest Park will be an increasingly important area for outdoor recreation, water quality protection and scientific studies.
Manassas National Battlefield Park, located at the four quadrants created by the intersection of Sudley Road and Route 29, preserves a part of Civil War history for citizens throughout the Nation. Well loved by history buffs, the Battlefield's 5,100 acres of trails and fields are also popular with wildflower enthusiasts, birders and equestrians.
Merrimac Farm, located west of the intersection of Aden Road and Fleetwood Drive, protects nearly one mile of shoreline along Cedar Run. This 302-acre Wildlife Management Area, includes more than 100 acres of contiguous floodplain wetlands, and a diversity of plant and animal communities. It's a great place to watch wildlife.
Conway Robinson State Forest, just west of the Battlefield on Route 29, borders Little Bull Run. This 450-acre forest includes a mix of conifers and deciduous trees that blanket several low, wet areas with interesting plants, such as pink lady's slippers. Conway Robinson State Forest is highly valued by nature lovers and a popular equestrian site.
Bull Run Mountain Natural Area, located on both sides of the Prince William/Fauquier border, safeguards ecosystems that are increasingly imperiled in our region. Owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and managed by the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy, this 800-acre area protects the headwaters of the Occoquan River and offers unique opportunities to observe wildlife.
Leesylvania State Park lies along Prince William's Potomac River shoreline, between Neabsco and Powell's Creeks. With 470-acres, Leesylvania State Park is the single point of public access to the Potomac River along Prince William's nearly 30 miles of waterfront. This park offers many outdoor recreation opportunities, including camping, boating, fishing, birding and other nature explorations.
Metz Wetland includes 19 acres of constructed wetlands and about 200 acres of natural wetlands are protected by a 220-acre upland buffer along Neabsco Creek, near Leesylvania State Park. Constructed by Wetland Studies, this site was used to mitigate wetland losses from development and later donated to Prince William County for public use. The diversity of plants at the Metz attracts wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts, especially birders, from throughout Northern Virginia.
Occoquan Bay and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuges lie along Prince William's Potomac River shoreline. Together these Refuges protect nearly 1,000 acres of wetlands and forests. The Featherstone Refuge is currently closed to the public. The Prince William Conservation Alliance provides occasional public tours to this Refuge, check our calendar for updates. Access to the wetland areas of the Marumsco section of the Occoquan Bay Refuge is also restricted, although some areas can be viewed from Veteran's Park. The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, at the confluence of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers, hosts a broad diversity of wetland habitats and is a premier area for birding and butterfly enthusiasts.
Forests, fields, wetlands and rivers provide outdoor recreation opportunities, support tourism, create a scenic landscape, protect water quality, preserve wildlife habitats and are the keystones of Prince William's green infrastructure.
These important natural areas create a sense of place and community pride in our suburban community. We need to protect our natural areas, waterways and wildlife habitats for future generations. Unless we act to protect these areas now, many of our beautiful, natural areas will disappear before our children and grandchildren have a chance to enjoy them.