Nature Center in Alexandria

Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center

The Ford Nature Center is located in West End Alexandria not far from the intersection of Beauregard St. and Sanger Ave. The Nature Center backs to Holmes Run behind William Ramsay Elementary School. The Nature Center is sited on Dora Kelley Nature Park, a 50-acre wildlife sanctuary with a one-mile long nature trail that meanders along streams, wooded hills, and freshwater marshland.

Staff naturalists at the Nature Center welcome visitors and “explorers” interested in Alexandria natural history. For groups of 8 or more, make reservations and a staff naturalist will take you on a guided tour of the Nature Park.   you can see live animals up close and learn about the cultural and natural history of Dora Kelley Nature Park.  For more information, or to make program reservations, please call the Nature Center at 703.746.5559.

The Nature Center houses the following attractions and exhibits:

  • Live turtles, snakes, toads and salamanders
  • Aquarium with native fish species from Holmes Run
  • Exhibit on Alexandria’s birds of prey
  • Mary Anne Warner’s beautiful 16’ x 7’ oil mural, “Wildlife of the Dora Kelley Nature Park”
  • Mounted black bear, red fox, turkey and bobcat
  • Interpretive exhibits on local geology, prehistory, and history
  • Small reference library with children’s section
  • Games and activity stations for children
  • Greenhouse with tropical rainforest plants

The activity room of Ford Nature Center is available for use and rental by community groups and organizations.

Volunteering at the Nature Center

A variety of volunteer opportunities are available through the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center for ages 16 and above. Positions include front desk attendant, park conservation aide, and park watch assistant. Volunteer opportunities for individuals or groups in outdoor conservation and trail maintenance are also available from 9am-12pm on the following Saturdays: April 12, May 17, June 14, July 26, and August 23. For more information, please call the Nature Center at 703.746.5559.

Homes for Sale near the Nature Center

Properties in 22312

Geese and ducks at River Towers in Winter

Canadian Geese at River Towers

Winter in Northern Virginia can be a little bleak at times. The foliage is gone from the trees, and the grass is a little beat.

But River Towers is teaming with life. A flock of Canadian geese winters here at the creek which surrounds River Towers.  One of the pleasures of  living at River Towers is the sound of  the geese when they take off together or come in for a landing.  From the higher floors of the high-rise residents can watch the geese fly by at eye level and almost within arm’s reach–a beautiful sight.

Winter berries add some color to the scenery.

Ducks are here year-round, as they like the gentle waters of the canal.

It’s not a great time for a picnic, but it’s always pleasant to walk through the natural areas surrounding River Towers. River Towers backs up against the Dyke Marsh, a national wildlife preserve that is home to a good many waterfowl and at least one pair of beavers that I’ve seen. Normally the geese stay close to the marsh and don’t approach the buildings at River Towers, but I suppose this year, they’ve had enough of the snow.

Geese at River Towers

If you’re seeking a home that is close to Old Town, close to the Potomac and you don’t want to break the bank, River Towers is a great place to investigate any time of the year.

Properties in River Towers

For more information or to set up an appointment call Stuart at (703)765-0300.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located at 7701 Royce St. in Annandale VA. The Hidden Oaks Nature Center is found within the 52 acre Annandale Community Park in Fairfax County. The nature center features a gently winding trail just one third of a mile long. The trail is perfect for an easy stroll because it works through the woods and then ends where it started. The County of Fairfax maintains this park and provides seasonal brochures that highlight the season. The Nature Center is open to students and the public providing reference materials about local fauna and flora.

Bird watchers and photographers love to visit Hidden Oaks. The Park has an antebellum railroad embankment that is part of the Virginia National Historic Landmark Manassas Gap Railroad. The Urban Woodlands exhibit reveals the secrets of an urban woodland forest. This exhibit features interactive stations in where children and parents alike can discover and learn through hands-on learning activities such as the indoor turtle pond.

Set within the 52 acre Annandale Community Park, Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located in the heart of Fairfax County, a few minutes inside the Capital Beltway. The woods surrounding the center feature an easy loop trail 1/3 mile long. Seasonal brochures enable visitors to discover the changing nature of the woodland at points along the trail. For further exploration, additional trails lead through the woods to two streams. Bird watching and photography are special pleasures in these quiet surroundings.

In December the Nature Center is open 9am to 5pm Monday, Wednesday-Friday; noon-5pm Saturday, Sunday; closed Tuesday. In January and February, the nature center is open 11am-4pm each day, closed on Tuesdays except for scheduled programs. The nature center is open 9am-5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; noon-5pm Saturday, Sunday. Closed Tuesdays except for scheduled programs. Grounds open dawn to dusk. Call the nature center at 703-941-1065 for more information.

Annandale — For a map of Annandale or to shop and compare homes for sale in Annandale.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Stuart at (703)765-0300.

A walk at the Belle Haven Marina

Last weekend Julie and I decided to take a walk on the trails near the Belle Haven Marina. The weather was warm, one of the first nice days of Spring, so we had a nice little walk to the water’s edge.

Julie at water's edge

The trail follows the edge of the Potomac and is relatively quiet even though it’s just off the George Washington Parkway.

Belle Haven Marina

The day was not so gloomy as these pictures turned out and it was very pleasant just off the trail.

Belle Haven Marina

There was a bird here and I tried hard to get him on camera, but he was much too quick. He would dive and then surface with a fish in his beak. We saw him eat at least six fish. I was amazed by how much one little bird could eat.

Foxy at the Marina

Foxy came with us and she trotted into the water to bark at ducks but didn’t have the courage to take a swim.


About the Author: Will Nesbitt is the principal broker of Condo Alexandria / Nesbitt Realty in Alexandria VA. He specializes in condos, townhouses and single family residences in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Crystal City, and Kingstowne.

A little about Belle Haven Marina

Docks at Belle Haven Marina on the Potomac River

Belle Haven Marina is found on the George Washington Parkway just south of historic Old Town Alexandria. Belle Haven Marina is owned by the National Park Service and operated by Belle Haven Marina Inc. The Belle Haven Marina is a short walk from River Towers, Belle View and New Alexandria. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks and sail boats are available for rent. Sign-up for sailing lessons and your package will include a limited number of free hours of sailing.

The Marina has a short pier and the George Washington Parkway has many points to fish the Potomac River. Many anglers rent or own boats which ply more serene and secluded spots nearby.

From the marina, one can see the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Stuart at (703)765-0300.


Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank

Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank
15875 Neabsco Road
Woodbridge VA 22191
Contact Number: 703 792 6666

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank offers 227 acres of preserved forested, shrub scrub and emergent wetlands of adventure with an array of wildlife with homes in the marshy areas, situated on the borders of Neabsco Road and Neabsco Creek, just 24 miles south of Washington D.C. A variety of bird species can be seen at Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank throughout the summer till winter.

During the time when John Smith had mapped out Neabsco Creek in 1608 , the surrounding land was of tobacco farming and lumbering. Being the first wetlands bank approved by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in Northern Virginia, Julie J.

Metz Wetlands Bank was named after an environmental scientist, Julie J. Metz.
Sightings of great blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, sparrow, red winged blackbirds, gulls, woodpeckers and hawks in Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank are sought after by visitors along with the views of the river banks. Summer features a large number of songbirds and winter sends an array of grass birds to the grassy and dry area of the wetland. A wood chip and boardwalk nature trail with looping paths provide visitors convenient bird watching at Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank.

Prince William Forest Park Protecting Nature’s Blessings

With a history of logging and over-cultivation, 17,000 acres of Prince William Forest Park is now home of tranquility for nature’s blessings where families and friends can visit. Located 32 miles away south of Washington DC and 22 miles north of Fredericksburg, Prince William Forest Park was also named as Chopawamsic Recreation Demonstration Area years ago, carefully shelters the federally threatened orchid Isotria medeoloides, a small whorled pogonia and the Eastern Box Turtle which a type of reptile with the longest life span as well as many other species.


Bird watching for migratory birds and songbirds can be anticipated. A complete list of bird species can be availed at the Visitor Center. But birds aren’t the only animals to be seen. Deer, Beavers and even wild turkeys can be sighted in this beautiful forest.


As long as you have a Virginia fishing license, anglers can take a shot at fishing for catfish, crappie, pickerel, perch bluegill and even bass. State and federal regulations are strictly imposed while fishing licenses are not sold at the visitor center.


37 miles of trails can be explored within the park offering visitors a tranquil and calm ambiance for variety of purposes such as vigorous activities, nature study or perhaps just a moment to be alone.


Keep a guide handy from the visitor center where information on restrooms, water, parking as well as paved and unpaved roads and you are set to enjoy 21 miles of bicycling with nature blessed scenery.


Picnic areas are allotted with tables, grills, trash bins, water and restrooms.


Programs are held by rangers for those wishing to focus more on the study of the environment.

The most favored option of exploring and discovering Prince William Forest Park’s history is by taking a hike on the 4 mile geology trail that showcases geologic change within its 570 million years. Schools can even have trips arranged for their students on give children an on hand study of their lessons and to mold them into being environmentally responsible.

A walk through Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows is a natural treasure for residents of Northern Virginia. The park is over 4500 acres of wetlands, forest and meadows in urban Fairfax County. I recently took a walk through the park and snapped a few pictures.

Homes for sale near Huntley Meadows Park