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Rappahannock River Valley
National Wildlife Refuge

Catpoint Creek as seen from the Tayloe tract.
336 Wilna Road
Warsaw, VA   22572
E-mail: fw5rw_evrnwr@fws.gov
Phone Number: (804) 333-1470
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Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is the newest of four refuges that comprise the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Established in 1996, the goal of the Refuge is to protect 20,000 acres of wetlands and associated uplands along the River and its major tributaries. As of May 2005, a total of 7,711 acres have been purchased from willing sellers or donated by Refuge partners, including 1,033 acres of conservation easements. With help from our conservation partners, including Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and The Trust for Public Land, we are well on our way toward achieving our land protections goal.

Getting There . . .
From Tappahannock, Virginia, take US-360 E (across the Rappahannock River, toward Warsaw). Follow US-360 E for 4.1 miles, then turn LEFT onto Rt. 624/Newland Rd. Follow Newland Rd. for 4.2 miles, then turn LEFT onto Strangeway/Rt 636. Follow Strangeway for 1/4 mile, then turn RIGHT onto Sandy Lane/Rt 640. Follow Sandy Lane for 1.1 miles, then turn LEFT into Rappahannock River Valley NWR.

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Wildlife and Habitat

At least two federally-listed threatened or endangered species may be found within the Refuge boundary, including the shortnose sturgeon and sensitive joint vetch. One of these, sensitive joint vetch, is found on Refuge property. The state's largest wintering roost for bald eagles (delisted in 2007) is located within the Refuge boundary.

Shorebirds, neotropical migrant songbirds, raptors, and marsh birds rely on the Rappahannock River's corridors during the spring and fall migration periods. The Refuge, with help from partners and volunteers, is restoring native grasslands and riparian forests along the River and tributary streams to provide additional habitat for these species. Focal species/species groups for management include bald eagle, forest interior dwelling species (such as wood thrush and Acadian flycatcher), and grassland nesting birds (such as grasshopper sparrow and northern bobwhite).

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The Atlantic Flyway Council first proposed establishment of a national wildlife refuge on the Rappahannock River in the early 1960s. However, it wasn't until the early 1990s that individuals, conservation organizations, and government agencies united to develop a plan for conserving the natural resources of the River for future generations. Establishment of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge was formally proposed in 1994, and the first tract was acquired in 1996.

Throughout its history, the Rappahannock River has nurtured Native Americans, our Nation's earliest colonists, and Revolutionary War heros. Today the River continues to sustain many of their direct descendants. Archeological and historic sites are abundant on both sides of the River. The 18th century Bristol Iron Works was located adjacent to the Refuge's Toby's Point Tract, while the Leedstown Resolves, a 1766 protest against the Stamp Act, was signed near the Refuge's Mothershead Tract. Old pilings can still be seen from the days when steamboats made regular stops to pick up produce and passengers for transport to the Port of Baltimore.

Agriculture and forestry remain the predominant land uses and sources for the area's economy, as they have for centuries. Some still make their living on the River, crabbing and fishing, while wildlife recreation and tourism are becoming increasingly important economic engines for the region. As the Refuge grows, it will make increasing contributions to the local culture and economy, as we work with partners to conserve natural resources, improve water quality, and provide compatible, wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
Being a relatively new Refuge, we are still in the process of establishing the full compliment of baseline biological surveys. We have conducted habitat mapping using geographic information systems, breeding bird surveys, marsh bird surveys, aerial waterfowl surveys during migration and winter, small mammal surveys, insect trapping, annuran (frogs) call counts, and vernal pool investigations. The Refuge enrolled seven fields, totaling 230 acres, in a regional research study looking at different management techniques to benefit grassland-nesting birds. We have studied three different techniques for censussing wintering grassland songbirds.

Beginning in 2001, the Refuge has taken a leadership role in controlling invasive stands of Phragmites australis (common reed) on both public and private lands along the entire tidal portion of the Rappahannock River. Using grants and matching private funds, we have been able to treat 120 different stands of phragmites, totalling over 250 acres. Over 100 private landowners have enrolled in the control program, which we expect to continue as long as funds are available.

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