Voorhees Preserve

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Ranger Dan
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Voorhees Preserve

Post by Ranger Dan » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:00 am

Voorhees is a Nature Conservancy preserve in Virginia's Northern Neck, east of Fredericksburg. This is a part of the state that has retained much of its forested landscape, and a lot of what you see along the roads is mature and inviting. Caledon State Park is here, and the magnificent trees of the "Poplar Walk" at Nomini Hall, as is the newly-protected Crow's Nest, which is reported to be well-endowed with large trees. Visitors are in fact welcome at Voorhees (unlike some other Nature Conservancy preserves), and the people at the adjacent berry farm who oversee its visitation are very friendly. The farm itself, which was owned by the donor of the preserve property, is a pleasant place to see as well, and I suspect that the woodlands within it may be well worth exploring, once permission is given. Though in the coastal plain, plain the topography here is not. At the edge of the Rappohannock River, plateau land ends at high bluffs, and is dissected by deep, very steep-walled ravines that give some of the landscape here a montane feel.

For many years I had read reports of the forest at Voorhees and its huge tuliptrees. This trip would not leave me or my buddy Phil disappointed. The walk begins through a flat field leading to the edge of a forested ravine. Immediately there is scenic, old growth forest with gleaming beech trunks, and an exceptional northern red oak on the ravine wall.
Voorhees NR oak.jpg
Voorhees NR oak.jpg (151.76 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
You'd need a rope to get to it, but I'd estimate its DBH at about 5'.

From here the trail descends to the river's edge, and crosses the wide, marshy outlet of a creek on a bridge. We saw bald eagles soaring, and more old trees on the slopes beyond. A steep climb brings you to a topographical anomaly...a small plateau atop a hundred-foot high bluff, isolated from the surrounding land by a horseshoe bend. The main trail leads along the brink of this bluff through nutrient-poor, ordinary forest dominated by chestnut oaks. Turning around at this trail's end, I thought the rest of the plateau would be as unworthwhile, and I was ready to go back to Caledon where we had been the day before. But only a short distance from the bluff, the soil is fertile and the dominant trees are tuliptrees...big ones! Starting on the Hollow Tree Trail, there is one of the largest second-growth tuliptrees I've ever seen. It measured about 12' CBH. At the edge of the plateau on its northern edge, away from the river, there is a grove of older tuliptrees, two of them over 4' DBH. The plateau forest, nearly pure tuliptrees, is an old field. The undulations I noticed in the trail at first made me think of an old railroad bed, where the timbers had rotted away, but then I saw that these were furrows that extended throughout. Almost all of the Virginia pines that once stood here have fallen, releasing the tulips to grow to exceptional size. They look around a hundred years old. There are many we measured at 10, 11 and 12' CBH. Next to Georgia's Sosebee Cove, this is the grandest stand of second-growth tuliptrees I've ever seen!

But it gets better. At the head of another ravine, there is a wonderland of fantastic, ancient tuliptrees with hollows, bulbous basal burls, huge roots, and stout limbs. We had found another portal into the forest past!
Voorhees 5' pair.jpg
Voorhees 5' pair.jpg (110.87 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
These giant brothers are about 5' DBH. The slope they are on is so steep, we couldn't measure them.
Voorhees giant root.jpg
Voorhees giant root.jpg (107.41 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
They are full of fascinating details.
Voorhees 5'.jpg
Voorhees 5'.jpg (114.32 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
The forest along the edges of this ravine is as lovely as any I've seen in the Smokies or elsewhere. Surely it is virgin.
Voorhees beech.jpg
Voorhees beech.jpg (134.9 KiB) Viewed 1887 times


There are gleaming, pristine beeches clutching the slopes with ancient hands, butressed northern red oaks, and many other large trees. Also, we found the remains of one large chestnut.
Voorhees forest.jpg
Voorhees forest.jpg (112.32 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
Voorhees 18'.jpg
Voorhees 18'.jpg (125.21 KiB) Viewed 1887 times
The most outstanding tree of the trip was this 18' CBH hollow tuliptree, the trail's namesake. There is room inside for company. Its chimney extends beyond sight.

I expect there are other forest wonders hidden in the many ravines along the edges of the Northern Neck.

Ranger Dan

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James Parton
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by James Parton » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:23 am

Dan,

Awesome forest! Love the pictures. Nice to hear from you again.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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edfrank
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by edfrank » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:20 pm

Dan,

Another exceptional post Dan. We need to get you involved with laser height measurement. You can get the stuff needed on eBay for around $200!!

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Ranger Dan
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by Ranger Dan » Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:13 pm

I'm glad it's appreciated. Thank you for the compliments.

Tomorrow I'm going on another old growth excursion, to Rich Hole Wilderness in George Wahsington N.F., west of Lexington, VA. I've been to parts of it before. There are exceptional stands of northern red and chestnut oak off-trail in one valley. I'll see about getting some DBH's there. But what I really want to see is an area that a hunter told me has tuliptrees and white ash trees 4' in diameter. With the emerald ash borer coming, it looks like we'll be losing yet another tree species, so I'm getting started on some documention before it's too late.

Speaking of ash trees, at the Claytor Nature Study Center where I work, we have a white ash that Jeff Kirwan says maybe Virginia's third largest, in the yard of our farmhouse. MIght include some shots it, too.

Dan

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James Parton
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by James Parton » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:04 am

Dan,

Detailed documentation of ash is probably a really good idea.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:28 pm

Dan, Very impressive trees! A beautiful looking place. Larry

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Tyler
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Re: Voorhees Preserve

Post by Tyler » Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:06 pm

Dan,

Very nice trees! Looks like a great place to explore.

Tyler

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