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Examining Trees at Riverbend Park

New Riverbend Tree Walk shows diversity of species at park.

Jim McGlone of the Virginia Department of Forestry shows how large the thorns on a Honey Locust tree can get during the Riverbend Park Tree Walk Sunday, Oct. 21.

Jim McGlone of the Virginia Department of Forestry shows how large the thorns on a Honey Locust tree can get during the Riverbend Park Tree Walk Sunday, Oct. 21. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— Visitors to Riverbend Park have a new way to explore the 400-plus acres of land along the Potomac River. Local resident Tabitha Eagle, with the help of Bob Vickers of the Fairfax County Tree Commission and staff at Riverbend, helped mark a mile-long trail that identifies 20 different tree varieties within the park.

"We have a lot of families and scout groups coming to us and looking for some sort of self-guided tour, so this is absolutely perfect," said Marty Smith, park manager. "It features a huge variety of trees right next to many of our trails."

The circular trail starts at the visitors center, then goes north along the Potomac Heritage Trail, then moves west along the Follow the Hollows trail almost to the Nature Center before looping back to the center. It features species of box elder, silver maple, spice bush, basswood, pignut hickory and more, often some of the largest in the state, are within 10 feet of each trail and clearly marked.

"It’s a relatively short walk, and though part of it goes uphill before coming back to the visitor’s center, I think it’s a walk a lot of people can make," Vickers said. "What’s also nice is the first third of the walk is right along the river and features the majority of the trees, so that makes for a shorter, easier walk that still offers plenty."

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A group examines a Paw Paw tree on the Riverbend Park Tree Walk, which highlights the various trees at the 400-acre park.

The first 11 trees are all located along the Potomac portion of the trail. Many of the trees have a history of use by the Native Americans and later settlers that inhabited the land.

"It’s a great way to go even deeper to the park’s beauty," said Eliza Johnson of Great Falls, who says she comes to Riverbend weekly to hike and bird watch. "I love looking at the trees, especially the ones along the Follow the Hollows Trail, but I know absolutely nothing about what they were. Now every time I hike here I look for trees and try to identify the ones that are the most striking to me."

While on the surface the walk might seem to feature a few tree signs and a map, Eagle, Vickers and others spent months finding the trees to include, measuring and marking them and are still on the search for trees to add.

"This was not a simple thing, not just putting up signs," Smith said. "This was a big project, and Tabitha worked very hard to put this together, with some crucial help from Bob Vickers and others, who have all performed a great service for the park."

Maps of the Tree Walk can be found at the Riverbend Park Visitors Center.