Turkey Run Park

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September, 2005 Fairfax County Potowmack Chapter Turkey Run Park


This 700-acre park, owned by the National Park Service and managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is considered the crown jewel of forested sites in the Potomac River Gorge.

VNPS recognized the Park as a Registry Site in September, 2005 in a ceremony at the George Washington Memorial Parkway headquarters (See the November-December, 2005 Potowmack News).

Potomac River from Turkey Run Park. Photo by Kat Martin at Alltrails.com used with permission.

The forested areas of Turkey Run Park are mostly mature with pockets of old growth. There are six forest community types many of which are ranked as state or globally rare including Beech/Sugar Maple Unglaciated Basic Mesic Forest, Northern Piedmont Basic Low-Elevation Boulderfield Forest, Central Appalachian/Northern Piedmont Mixed Oak Bluff Forest, Northern Piedmont/Lower New England Basic Seepage Swamp and Mixed Bedrock Floodplain Rocky Bars and Shores.

There are 20 state rare, threatened or endangered species in the park, including some species more common in the Appalachians.

John Dodge, VNPS Registry Chair, described several features of Turkey Run Park in the January-March, 2013 Potowmack News:

You’ve probably heard something about the plant and habitat diversity in the Potomac Gorge. It is the biologically-diverse prize in the DC area. Ecologists believe it is diverse for several reasons. 1) It is at the boundary between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions in Virginia, and will have at least some of the plants from each region; 2) it has rocky regions and sandy regions, open areas and forested areas – many habitats that are good homes for many species; 3) the Potomac is a large watershed, so the spring floods and other flooding along the banks and flood plains can bring plants and seeds from habitats far away. This diversity is the reason for the selection of Turkey Run Park as a VNPS Registry Site.

There are many flowering plants in Turkey Run Park that will reward the seeker. Cris Fleming, Marion Lobstein, and Barbara Tufty published Finding Wildflowers in the Washington-Baltimore Area in 1995. Since the GWMP is much the same now as it was in the 1990’s, the plants are likely about the same now as they were then. So we suggest that is a useful reference for checking a park area like Turkey Run prior to a visit. A sample from their book describing Turkey Run Park: ”In mid-April, an explosion of bloom occurs in the rich bottomlands and moist hillsides of this park. Over 25 species flower at this time, including masses of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) on the floodplain. Other plants found along the riverside trail are wild ginger (Asarum canadensis), swamp buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis), sessile trillium (Trillium sessile), trout-lily (Erythronium americanum), and its close relative, white trout lily (Erythronium albidum).”

Turkey Run Park is on the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Turkey Run Loop Rd, McLean, VA 22101


 About the VNPS Native Plant Site Registry