Decorated by the bountiful serenity of the mature mixed hardwood forests and the beautiful stream which proudly spills into the upper Rapidan River; The Rapidan WMA (Wildlife Management) area is bejeweled. Yet, the dense basins which serve home to these slender stream passages and forested lands are dwarfed by the rocky crags which rise from their depths. Many of these mountains in the area play host to steep slopes and unyielding laurel copses.
The eight distinct regions of the Rapidan WMA total the 10,326 acres that spread across the eastern hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison and Greene Counties and sum up the area. Sharing a boundary close to 25 miles; half of the eight regions affix the Shenandoah National Park. The area houses three major rivers as the Rapidan, South, and Conway Rivers all course through the region. Meanwhile, the elevation varies from 1,400 to 3,840 feet.
Timber in the region consists mainly of mixed hardwoods with a moderate grouping of chestnut oak forests inhabiting the southwestern slopes. In the deep valleys there are preponderantly tulip poplar woods but in higher elevations forests of sugar maple, yellow and black birch can be found. Before the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries obtained ownership, the majority of the territory was woodland. The region was a commonly used resource for timber companies looking to harvest. Mountaineer families too, once dwelled here. The remnants of cemeteries and old roads persist throughout the slopes along with rock piles and sites of past homes.
Rapidan WMA Outdoor Opportunities
The Rapidan WMA area is also a wonderful spot for recreation. The area is widely held in praise for wildlife related activities and opportunities. The region’s habitat types are diverse and the area is well-maintained by enforcing intermittent timber harvesting and upholding small clearings. As a result, hunting is well recognized in the area and both deer and turkey populations, albeit on the modest side in numbers, maintain a stable and high quality for hunters. The wildlife management area is remote and has a rocky terrain. This combined with its immediacy to the Shenandoah National Park allow black bears to flourish in the area. Nearing the wet, timeworn mountaineer house sites and beside many of the larger streams one will find Woodcock with some ease. Also, ruffed grouse and gray squirrels are common throughout the region in its entirety.
Hunting is not the only pastime destination in the Rapidan WMA. The native trout fishing grounds are excellent also. The Rapidan and Conway Rivers in particular contain hearty populaces of brook trout, but many of the streams and tributaries have sizeable populations. In addition, the Conway also holds an abundant collection of wild brown trout. The rushing white waters intermixed with calm pools that range from shallow to deep, where trout anglers can go for a native trout catch. The Rapidan River is subjected to fish-for-fun regulations and the same applies for all of its tributaries that lie within the limits of the Shenandoah National Park and Rapidan WMA.
Wildlife observation, photography, and hiking are also well-suited for the wildlife management area. Camping is also acceptable for Rapidan WMA adventurers, but there are no provided sites or facilities and wildlife management regulations apply (which can be located at any and all informational kiosks). Please note that the area roads and some roadways leading to the area are narrow, not kept to VDOT criterions and may be coarse.