Scenically shadowed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 219-acre preserve bordering the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is a mix of upland woods, pine stands, open fields, streams, and two miles of shoreline. Its rolling hills and diverse habitats make the Ivy Creek Natural Area an ideal site to learn about the rich natural history characteristic of Central Virginia and has made Ivy Creek a favorite destination for visitors and community alike looking for a peaceful walk in the woods.
Visiting the Natural Area
The Ivy Creek Natural Area is located six miles north of Charlottesville, VA, on Earlysville Road. It is one half mile from the intersection of Hydraulic and West Rio Roads. (map). Open 7:00 a.m. to sunset.
Please observe our rules for protecting the Natural Area. Sporting activities and pets are prohibited. For an alternative, please visit one of the many parks in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area! (See: Albemarle County parks and City of Charlottesville parks.)
Seven Miles of Walking Trails
Eleven trails through diverse habitat and of varying difficulty allow young and old alike to take either a leisurely or a challenging hike on a visit to Ivy Creek. Download a copy of the Trail map.
A network of more than 7 miles of walking trails, designed and maintained by the Ivy Creek Foundation, leaves large areas of natural habitat undisturbed. The 1.5 mile Central Red Trail leads to and from the parking lot and barn. All other trails are off the Red Trail. A ¾ mile paved trail is provided for visitors with mobility impairments. Pick up a free trail map at the information kiosk, which is just north of the parking lot.
The parking lot, rest rooms, barn, and Education Building are all wheelchair-accessible. The ¾ mile paved path does not currently meet ADA requirements, but is planned to be re-routed and repaved later in 2020.
Relax on one of the benches in the Quiet Observation Area, located along the paved trail and across from the barn, and watch the birds that come to the nest boxes, feeders, and bird fountain.
A Watchable Wildlife Area was created in 1989 as a project to demonstrate how land can be enhanced to attract wildlife. The area is located behind the information kiosk between the parking lot and the restrooms and is bordered on two sides by the paved trail. The Foundation planted native trees and shrubs, sows an annual grain plot, and has created brushpiles and rock piles to increase wildlife observation opportunities. A large bat shelter was added to the Watchable Wildlife Area in 2000 by Eagle Scout Daniel Perry.
Native grassland restoration began in year 2000 in the hayfields located to the south of the parking lot and to the north of the Barn. Fescue in the former hayfields was eradicated and replaced with native warm season grasses to provide a better habitat for wildlife. The two fields are burned on alternate years to retard successional growth of woody plants. Both areas can be observed from the paved trail or parking lot.
Old Field habitat at Ivy Creek Natural Area is maintained on two meadows located off the Central Red Trail. Bushhogging every other year discourages woody growth and allows for more wildflower and wildlife diversity.
Natural History of the Ivy Creek Natural Area
The Ivy Creek Foundation offers more than 200 public nature walks and programs each year on the natural and cultural history of the area. All ICF programs are free and open to the public. The Ivy Creek Foundation maintains and makes available to the public: lists, brochures and educational materials on the plants and animals of the Ivy Creek Natural Area. See the Natural History section.
The Education Building at Ivy Creek Natural Area
The Ivy Creek Foundation Education Building is an all-weather facility of sustainable design with a capacity of 65 persons. ICF offers use of the Education Building at a small charge to state and local community organizations for environmental meetings and workshops. Please consult the rules for use of the Education Building before inquiring as to its availability.
The African American History of the Ivy Creek Natural Area
ICNA is an official site on the Virginia African American Heritage Trail in recognition of its rich social and agricultural history dating back to 1870 when former slave Hugh Carr purchased the land as a family farm. Known as River View Farm, the land was in the Carr and Greer family for a century before becoming the Ivy Creek Natural Area. A free take-home brochure celebrating this incredible story can be found at the kiosk at ICNA and on the ICF website. See more in our Cultural History section.
Creation of the Ivy Creek Natural Area
Ivy Creek Natural Area (originally the Rann Preserve) was founded in 1975, thanks to efforts of local citizens who valued the former farmland for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife habitat. Enlisting the help of The Nature Conservancy, the 80 acres remaining of River View Farm were purchased to protect it from impending development. By 1981, with the aid of federal grants, an additional 97 acres of former farmland were bought and that, along with 38 acres of City-owned land bordering the reservoir, was added to the Natural Area, bringing ICNA to its present size of 219 acres — approximately the original boundaries of River View Farm.
Now jointly owned by Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, and managed by the Ivy Creek Foundation, the land has been set aside in perpetuity for free public use as an unspoiled natural area.