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Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck
National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge Location: 7603 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA 22079
Headquarters Office: 12638 Darby Brooke Ct.
Woodbridge, VA   22192
E-mail: potomacriverrefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 703-490-4979
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Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Mason Neck NWR was established in 1969 for the protection of nesting, feeding, and roosting habitat for the Bald eagles. It was the first federal refuge established specifically for the (then endangered) Bald eagle. The refuge is part of the Potomac River NWR Complex.

The refuge, situated along the Potomac River on the Mason Neck peninsula, consists of 2277 acres of oak-hickory forest, freshwater marshes, and has 4.4 miles of shoreline. The refuge has the largest fresh water marsh in Northern Virginia, the largest Great Blue heron rookery in the Mid-Atlantic region (over 1400 nests), is a designated RAMSAR site, and hosts over 200 species of birds, 31 species of mammals, and 44 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Eagles use the mature forests for shelter and nesting sites and the marshes, bays, and river for foraging and hunting. The refuge was listed as one of the top ten sites in the country for viewing Bald eagles.

For current refuge information please visit the E.H. Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge website at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/mason_neck/

Getting There . . .
Mason Neck NWR is located about 18 miles south of Washington D.C. From the north: take I-95 south to exit 163 (Lorton). Turn left on Lorton, right on Armistead Rd, and then right (south) on RT 1. Go to light at top of the hill and turn left on Gunston Rd. (242) and go about 4 miles. The refuge shares a common entrance (High Pt. rd.) with the Mason Neck State Park. From the south: take I-95 north to exit 161 (Rt 1, Ft. Belvoir), go north on Rt 1, turn right on Gunston rd, go about 4 miles to refuge entrance.

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Wildlife and Habitat

This refuge is a critical site for the preservation of plant and animal species in this rapidly developing region of Virginia. The refuge was established because bald eagles actively nest on the Mason Neck peninsula and large numbers utilize the mature oak, hickory and Virginia pine trees as they hunt for fish along the Potomac River shoreline. The refuge also contains a great blue heron rookery. Large numbers of neotropical birds nest or pass through the mature hardwood forest each year. Wood thrush, ovenbirds, scarlet tanagers, northern parula warblers and prothonotary warblers are a few of the many species readily heard and seen through the spring and summer seasons. The 285 acre Great Marsh contains vast stands of wild rice, and provides ideal wetland habitat for waterfowl, marsh wrens, green herons, and great egrets. White-tailed deer, eastern gray squirrel, red fox and an occasional flock of wild turkey are encountered on the refuges three hiking trails.

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The recorded history of Mason Neck began in 1775 with the construction of nearby Gunston Hall, home of George Mason. Mason was an author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, predecessor to the United States Bill of Rights. Logging occurred repeatedly through the 1800's and 1900's and today remnants of the sawmills can still be found on the refuge. By the 1960's the timber had grown back but a new threat had arisen. Residential development threatened to destroy the integrity of the Mason Neck peninsula and endanger nesting eagles. The Nature Conservancy along with local citizens lead by "Eagle Lady" Elizabeth Hartwell fought to stop the developers. They brought the beauty and significance of the eagle nesting sites and the expansive Great Marsh to the attention of local, State and Federal agencies. The refuge was created in 1969 as the first National Wildlife Refuge established for the protection of the then endangered bald eagle.

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Management Activities
Management of the area focuses on protection of habitat and nesting sites. Current practices are mostly passive with natural processes within the hardwood forest maintaining the desired habitat. Surveys are conducted for eagle nesting, production, and wintering and heron nesting and production. A 90 acre impoundment is managed to provide feeding areas for juvenile heron and eagles. Disturbance to nesting areas is managed by limiting public access. Habitat recovery and white-tailed deer population reduction and deer health enhancement is the focus of the refuge deer hunting program.

The refuge is part of the Mason Neck Management Area. The refuge, Mason Neck State Park, Gunston Hall, Pohick Bay Regional Park, and BLM's Meadowood Farm protect more than 6,000 acres of the Mason Neck peninsula. The agencies cooperate in the management activities on their combined lands. This cooperation provides the public with a wide variety of recreational activities while protecting the natural resources of the area.

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