Recently, I walked another property conserved by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. John Jablonski, executive director of the conservancy, printed out an aerial view of the property and gave me detailed directions on where I would see the most wildlife and be able to avoid deep streams. This is a very wet area.
I would describe the Chautauqua Lake Outlet Greenway as medium to hard walking. The deer paths were most welcome. There is a former trolley line in the middle of it for relief from hiking through dense vegetation and tree roots. This property in Ellicott, with a signed entrance on Fluvanna Avenue, is adjacent to the Marker Electrical Contracting business.
There is an additional sign at the edge of the parking lot to indicate the beginning of the trail. Ribbons and painted marks on the trees help guide the hiker.
The royal fern is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful of the ferns.
Photo by Ann Beebe
Often, after a walk, I can name a favorite bird, flower or tree that I have seen. In this sanctuary, I loved the royal ferns. At the outlet greenway I couldn't even begin counting, because there were so many. All I can say is ''Wow!'' I'll never forget the sight of that big royal fern patch.
Besides the spectacular royal ferns, there were wonderful trees - ash, butternut, catalpa, dogwood, basswood and the interestingly shaped white pine with profuse poison ivy clinging to its bark.
I had hoped for more birds. But considering that it was Oct. 27, after the main migration, the bluejays, cowbirds, robins, downy woodpeckers and bold chickadees were quite respectable.
Seeing a beaver lodge was exciting. I was able to walk right up to it.
It was a little late for blooming flowers. The invasives included knotweed, dame's rocket, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, lots of forget-me-nots and phragmites. Natives included teasel, golden rods, asters, Joe pyeweed, broad-leaved cattail, nightshade, bur-reed and skunk cabbage, already poking up thinking that it was spring. The one blossom was on an evening primrose spike. A lovely yellow.
The research is interesting about phragmites. It seems that both native and alien species are in the United States. Scientists have dated preserved specimens from the southwest to 40,000 years ago. Genetic research shows that there also native plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Unfortunately, our species is alien.
Some more water lovers - either arrowhead or pickerel weed. Oh dear, which was it? I'm afraid that I didn't look these up immediately. The broad-leaved arrowhead, listed in one of my many wildflower books, has arrow-shaped leaves. What a surprise. Its white flowers are whorled around the stems. The leaves of the pickerel weed are described as being heart-shaped. It likes lakes and ponds where the pickerel fish abound. Thus, its name. Its spike of purplish blooms appears between June and November. Neither plant was in bloom, but I think the leaves quite distinctively make the identification of broad-leaved arrowhead fairly easy. I hope that I'm correct.
All in all, I loved the walk and want to go back - especially in the spring and summer. John told us exactly how we could reach the outlet's water. This was a very different perspective from canoeing. I just didn't know where I could walk without trespassing. That's what John and the conservancy provided for me.
John also gave me a current list of all the conservancy lands. It is quite impressive. The outlet Greenway consists of six sites which together total 80 acres. All of these, in the town of Ellicott, are along Fluvanna Avenue Extension, Old Fluvanna Road and Denslow Avenue. The original owners are listed. County tax map coordinates are provided along with the acreage of each property. The size of the sites in this preserve ranges from 50 to 0.1 acres.
The conservancy would like very much to preserve more land along the outlet. That seems like a wonderful goal to me. What a treat to be able to walk in these areas without invading folks' privacy.