Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Running Riverbend - Trails, Wildlife and History, Oh My!

Over the weekend we did a 4 mile trail run through Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA. Riverbend Park is just North of the very well known Great Falls National Park. Great Falls overshadows Riverbend in popularity, which is a good thing, as it means less competition for parking and trail use.

Riverbend Park exceeded my expectations in nearly every way.

Proximity: Check. It was something like a 45 minute drive to the park from our home.

Trails: Check. They were "real" enough to feel like we were roughing it in the woods, yet, well groomed enough to run on. We did an obvious 4 mile loop. Apparently, the park has something like 10 miles of trails all combined. The park also connects up to my beloved Potomac Heritage Trail, which goes on for miles and miles.

Wildlife: Check. I love how the frog we saw in the swamp blended perfectly with the swamp, and the frog we saw in the sand, blended perfectly in the sand. Oh natural selection, is there no problem you can't solve? We also saw a couple of (very harmless) snakes, some interesting birds and deer.

Activities: Check. There's fishing encouraged, boats to rent and a nature center. We didn't use any of the facilities, but it's good to know they are there.

History: check. We came across a small structure marked "T Terresi 1942," but according to this report, that's just the tip of the iceberg:

Riverbend has many rare and unique resources. A site survey using shovel tests and surface surveys was conducted by Mike Johnson from the Cultural Resource Protection office. His surveys documented more than 80 prehistoric and historic sites, finding more American Indian sites at Riverbend Park than any other park in the FCPA. Additionally, historic research and documentation has identified Riverbend as the site of Conn’s Ferry which was the Ferry used by President James Madison when he was fleeing from the British during the War of 1812. Conn’s farm was an early 19th century farm which continued to be a working farm up into the 20th century. Conn’s family retained African-American slaves. In the early 1800’s one of these African-Americans escaped to freedom. It is believed that he was aided by the famous Underground Railroad network.

So yeah, the trail marked "Madison's Escape" is *that* Madison. The report goes on to explain that there are number of home and moonshine sites throughout the park. So yeah, "Bootlegger" trail was really used by Bootleggers. I'm going to have to drag Shira back to the park to do some off trail exploration. I'd love to find some of the history outlined in the above report, as well as annotated here.

Riverbend is truly an excellent place to visit, especially on days when Great Falls is overflowing with people. (Like, say, Memorial Day weekend.)

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