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There’s no better place to take a walk on the wild side than in Virginia. Not only have more than 2,200 species of wildlife – the largest diversity of species east of the Mississippi River – been recorded here, but the extensive Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail makes it easy for visitors to spot many of the birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and other wildlife found in the Commonwealth.
Although many states have developed similar driving trails with loops linking wildlife-viewing sites, Virginia is the first and only state with a statewide trail system.
The loops also offer opportunities for hiking, biking, boating and other outdoor recreation; exploring caves and natural attractions; and visiting historic and cultural sites-all of which are also good wildlife viewing spots – making the drives appealing even if you aren’t a diehard birder or wildlife watcher. In addition, the loops encompass other attractions from scenic byways and local wineries to natural history museums, botanical gardens and historic buildings.
Program Offers Guides from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries mapped out the trail with the help of several collaborators, opening up the first of the three phases in 2002. The trail system includes a mind-boggling 665 sites on 65 different loops in three regions-Coastal, Mountain and Piedmont. Each loop is designed to be driven in a long weekend or two-to three-day excursion, although several loops can be combined for longer trips.
You can call (866) VABIRDS (822-4737) to request any of the three Discover Our Wild Sides: Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail guides. These illustrated, spiral-bound guidebooks are available at no charge, just for the asking. The Coastal area book includes 18 driving loops located in the region east of I-95. The Mountain area book features 34 western Virginia loops in the geographic region west of U.S. Route 29. The Piedmont area book, the newest in the series, covers 13 loops in the central part of the state.
You also can view the guides and download information on specific loops (including updates on sites and directions) from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website at www.dgif.virginia.gov. Click on “Wildlife” to access trail information. However, keep in mind that the guides cannot be ordered through the website, only via the toll-free number.
Other handy contacts when planning your trip include the Virginia Tourism Corporation at (800) 321-3244 (www.Virginia.org) for information on area campgrounds and attractions and the Virginia Department of Transportation at (804) 786-2801 (www.virginiadot.org) for highway travel and road conditions.
The reference guides provide detailed information about each loop from driving directions and maps to descriptions of the sites, including contact information, website, operating hours and fees (if any), and what you can expect to see. A listing of area chambers of commerce and tourism offices tells where you can ...
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