An official press release of the Department of Conservation and Recreation
On the evening of Friday, July 13, Caledon Natural Area will close forever, and the next morning at 9 a.m., a ceremonial ribbon cutting will open Caledon State Park. The award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Caledon Natural Area becomes Caledon State Park on July 14
Special activities, including opening several new trails, are planned throughout the day.
“We’re really excited about this change and what this means for the future and growth of the park,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “This is more than just a name change. Our offerings will grow in ways that allow more people to enjoy this unique area while protecting those resources that make it attractive to both humans and eagles.”
Caledon, which is in King George County, is 23 miles east of Fredericksburg and has one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles on the East Coast.
Caledon's history predates its establishment as a state park in 1974
It was donated to the state by the Smoot family in 1974 to serve as a state park. In 1984 a task force created by then-Gov. Chuck Robb recommended that the property be managed as a natural area with an emphasis on protecting the bald eagle habitat.
When the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list five years ago, a shift toward offering more recreational opportunities to visitors began.
A new master plan for Caledon was developed in 2011 and adapted in 2012 to include plans for it to become a state park. Under the plan, previously restricted areas of Caledon are now open year-round to visitors. The areas will offer more than six miles of hiking and bicycling trails, and more than eight miles of hiking-only trails.
Three adult eagles at Caledon
“The recovery of the iconic American bald eagle, such an important symbol of our nation, has made it possible for us to permit traditional state park offerings such as hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing and wildlife watching,” said Elton.
“This new focus is consistent with Gov. McDonnell’s goal of making Virginia attractive for outdoor recreation and eco-tourism,” said David Johnson, DCR director. “We expect this change to attract more visitors from all over but especially from Washington, D.C., and Maryland since it is such a convenient commute. A new name and a new focus allow us to offer year-round interpretive tours of the eagle areas, as well as kayak tours along the shoreline of the Potomac River.”
Kayakers on the shore of the Potomac at Caledon State Park
Future plans for the park include the construction of a canoe and kayak launch site as well as a canoe campground. A Maryland law enforcing a 1,000-foot motorboat restriction along the shoreline remains in place.
“Based on feedback that we have already received, we expect the community in King George to receive the changes at Caledon as warmly as our parks are received elsewhere in Virginia,” Elton said. “People know that a local state park is a tonic for the mind, body and spirit, as well as an economic draw that conserves and protects natural resources. A state park such as Caledon really is a win-win for everyone.”
Caledon was designated a National Natural Landmark site in 1974 by the National Park Service, one of only 10 in Virginia.
Caledon is a designated National Natural Landmark as one of the best examples of oak-tulip poplar-dominated virgin upland forest in the country. This is a bloom from the tulip poplar.
Long-time Park Manager Nina Cox, a native of the area, says many necessary changes have already been made, including installation of new signs.
“I’ve been here for many years, and I’ve seen so many changes over those years,” Cox said, “I’m just so excited to be here for this significant change. I’m pleased to see the eagle population recover to healthy levels, and I’m especially pleased to know that so many more people will be able to enjoy the park in new ways.”