Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hiking the Dutch Gap Oxbow

An oxbow is formed when a river seeks a new channel and its older, curved channel is cut off.  The Dutch Gap Conservation Area on the James River is a good example of such a feature, and with me having the day off yesterday, I went hiking there.

I am liking my job a lot better for the last 7 months or so.  Before that, it was not a very fun day being at work for a long time.  I am very grateful that things are improving, and generally enjoy my time at work now.  But even the best day at work cannot compete with a day outside, hiking in an interesting place.  The Dutch Gap area always has interesting wildlife sightings.  I saw a kingfisher, cormorants, an unknown hawk, an osprey, Canada geese, mallards, bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, an unknown woodpecker, great blue herons, gray squirrels, and a deer. I came up on at least six of the great blues just as they spotted me and flew away, croaking in alarm at my intrusion.  Even though I took my bigger camera with the 10 power zoom lens, I couldn't get any wildlife photos.

It was a cool day, and I wore my new Icebreaker 200 Merino wool shirt.  At the start, I wore a fleece and light gloves, but shed all that after about a mile.  I was plenty warm enough in just the shirt.  The hike is interesting - one is never far from water as you can see from the map:

My route started and ended at the orange star.  I hiked the loop counter clockwise, as the orange arrows show, and I had lunch at the tip of a little peninsula, as marked by the purple circle.  The main hike is about 4.4 miles, but all my little side trips, I hiked about 6.3 miles.  A nice bridge (that I have marked with a bridge symbol) makes it possible to do this as a loop rather than as a long out and back.

The trail is very level, and there is plenty of evidence of human activity here, including a huge coal-fired power plant that is visible at times.  As I neared the end of my hike, it started raining, a few drops at first and then a steady, moderate rain that unexpectedly lasted until sometime during the wee hours of the night.

Here are a few photos from my interesting hike at Dutch Gap, starting with a large flock of double-crested cormorants out in the old river channel.  I need a new pair of binoculars.  Santa, I've been good this year!

Woodpeckers have really worked this tree over, haven't they?
After walking down this trail, looking back from whence I came, along this peninsula, I came.....
.... to a perfect spot to have lunch, complete with a bench to sit on, and a lovely tree.
Mother Nature hasn't put away all of her autumn decorations just yet.
Another side trail led to this nice river view.  As I got almost this point, yet one more great blue heron, croaking an alarm to its pals, took off from this point.


  1. Always enjoy reading about your walks.
    Oh yes, a day outside is always better than a day at work. : )

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed my hike. it was great to be outdoors and away from work for a day.

  3. Thanks for the hike description and map! Headed out with the family soon.