Riverview Park &
The Rivanna Greenbelt Interpretive Trail

On a year round basis, deer, foxes, groundhogs, beavers, muskrats, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, opossums, fish, owls, Canada geese, and many other birds live here.

During the spring, summer and fall you will find wildflowers such as Wild Asters, Golden Rod and wild sunflowers.

In the winter you may find this area covered with a blanket of snow or frost with animal tracks.

Purple passionflower ( Stowe Keller)
Look for purple passionflowers in the summer

As you begin your nature walk today, you are entering the flood plain of the Rivanna River.

A flood plain is a flat, low land along a river formed by the deposit of sediment from repeated flooding. As a result the soils are a mixture of sands and silt, ranging from well drained to poorly drained soils. Floods also deposit various plant and tree seeds resulting in a variety of trees and plants not often found in the area.

The stations are marked on numbered posts. Also please look to see what interesting plants, animals and trees you can find between the described areas. From post number One to the footbridge, the end of the interpretive part of the Greenbelt Trail, is about 1 + 1/4 miles. For a shorter walk, a little past post number Five you can turn to the left and follow the loop back to the parking lot.

1. At this first stop you will find typical flood plain species of White Ash and Green Ash (Fraxinus), Box Elder (Acer) and scattered Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus). The Red Cedar is not a typical flood plain species.
As you continue up the trail you will be walking upstream, that is, opposite to the direction of the flow of the Rivanna River on your right. Along the river you will see large trees of flood plain species, such as: Sycamore (molted bark ranging in color from white to green to almost black), White Ash (grayish bark) and Hackberry (corky bark). These large trees help stabilize the river bank but severe floods can damage or destroy them. Look for evidence of flood damage along the trail and you will better understand the meaning of a flood plain.
Beavers (Castor canadensis) are very active in this area. In spring, winter and fall you can easily see evidence of beavers. Look for cone-shaped stumps, chips and downed trees on both sides of the trail. Along the bank you will see slick areas (called "beaver runs") where they come and go from the water.
2. Many Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) are found along our trail. This large one is covered with Poison Ivy vine (3 leaflets). Poison Ivy and Poison Oak leaves, vines and roots are toxic to humans. Notice the sediment basin that settles out sand and other soil particles from washing into the river. 
3. At this Sycamore tree you will find Japanese Honeysuckle on the ground and climbing into the tree. Also, there is a grape vine in the Sycamore. Honeysuckle is a good deer food and squirrels and foxes enjoy the wild grapes.
4. Look for the large Catalpa tree with Virginia Creeper growing in it. The fruit of this tree is shaped like a long cigar and is edible by animals. Catalpa is not a typical flood plain species but seeds have come down river from Catalpa trees on old estates. Virginia Creeper has 5 leaflets in a cluster compared to three for Poison Ivy. Virginia Creeper leaves and vine are non-toxic.
5. Here you will find a Mimosa (Mimosadeae). The Mimosa seed was brought into the flood plain by wind and water from surrounding homesites. The pink flowering Mimosa is a beautiful sight in the summer time and attracts many types of birds. Mimosa flower by Stowe Keller
6. The Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana). Fruit of this tree is enjoyed by wildlife. It is also edible and tasty to humans after the first frost. Persimmon fruit by Stowe Keller
7. On the left side of the trail going upstream you will find two large Hackberry Trees (Celtis occidentalis), a common low land species in the south. These trees are old and breaking up due to age and storm damage. Poison Ivy vines and Japanese Honeysuckle are beginning to climb the trees and cover the lower part of the stems and branches.
8. Look closely for the Hickory stump which shows beaver activity. Beavers first make an underwater foundation of mud and stone, then gnaw down trees, and drag or float the cuttings to the dam site to incorporate into the foundation with more mud. They work mostly at night. Wood cuttings are stored underwater to be eaten during winter.
9. Rock bluffs are on the left side of the trail going upstream. This rock is commonly called greenstone and is the origin of the red clay soil familar to this area. A greater variety of trees and plants are found here as the site changes from flood plain to upland.
Upland species found on the rock bluffs are Red Oak (Quercas borealis), White Oak (Quercus alba), Chestnut Oak (Quercus Montana), Basswood (Tilia glabra), Hickory (Carya glabra), Ironwood or Hornbeam (Carpinus caoliniana), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and Pawpaw (Asimina triloba). The fruit of the Pawpaw tree has a banana flavor when ripe. The fruit is relished by many wildlife species and is also edible by humans. As you walk along the bluffs, you might also notice the common Christmas Ferns growing beneath the trees.
10. Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is a fast disappearing species because of overcutting for valuable furniture wood. Nuts of this tree are also edible to humans and squirrels.
Approaching the footbridge you can see the following:
Immediately to the left at the entrance to the bridge is a large Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). Characteristic corky bark identifies this tree.
Growing along the right side of the bridge is a large White Ash(Fraxinus americana) with a large hairy Poison Ivy vine growing up the tree.
At the upper end of the bridge on the right (approximately 100 feet) is a large wild grape vine from the ground to the top of the trees. Squirrels and foxes in particular like the grapes.

At this point the interpretive trail ends, but the Greenbelt Trail continues up to Free Bridge at Route 250 and will eventually extend up to Darden Towe Park and Pen Park.

Charlottesville Parks and Grounds would like to thank Charles Witter, a retired forester, for writing the interpretive material for this brochure, and Paul Spicer for drawing the art illustrations.  A hardcopy version of this brochure is available in the brochure boxes along the Greenbelt Trail.

Riverview Park & Rivanna Greenbelt Home
Parks and Grounds Home

Revised 4/5/01 by Stowe Keller


Charlottesville City Home Page