Fauquier & Prince William Counties
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The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s (VOF) Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serves as a living laboratory and open-air museum in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The Preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In addition to the biodiversity, this land holding permanently protects dozens of regionally important cultural history sites that tell the story of the Preserve’s diversely peopled past. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a Natural Area Preserve to protect the unique ecosystems and cultural resources found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the mountain’s significance and sharing it with the public through managed access.
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The Bull Run Mountains was an early hotbed of scientific activity, and the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve continues to serve as an important site for scientific research. The permanent protection that a natural area preserve designation provides creates a relatively stable environment nestled in a dynamically changing area with ever-increasing anthropogenic pressures. As a result, the preserve is a fantastic place for long-term research and amassing large datasets. VOF staff continuously pursue research objectives and actively encourage and facilitate the research of outside organizations and institutions. The scientific potential is limitless.
Data of various types is actively collected by VOF staff and preserve volunteers, including data about plant and animal species, public visitation, and trail use. This data is crucial in making informed, objective decisions. Our data-driven approach is critical for our ability to effectively balance public use with our obligation to preserve a healthy, natural ecosystem.
With three different sections and focuses, the preserve is an active and dynamic resource. We host K-12 school groups, university students, and researchers throughout the week. Although the South Section is the only site that is open on weekends to the public without a permit, the entire preserve is actively utilized as a living laboratory, outdoor classroom, and open-air museum. Jackson Hollow and the North Section, which are accessible by permit only, serve as the engine that drives our scientific mission. Jackson Hollow houses our research station and is the home of our stream restoration area and brook trout release sites. The North Section hosts many VOF-led organized educational programs and research activities. All research and discoveries made at the preserve are incorporated into our public educational programs and outreach materials.
If you are interested in learning more about the Preserve, our research, programs, events and partners, please read our 2020 Annual Report.
A team of our staff and volunteers recently found a patch of Eastern jack-O-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus olearius) while out performing trail work (kudos to PATC’s