Have you ever seen a cypress swamp? These lowland areas are characterized by bald cypress trees and the ecosystem they support. Cypress trees are recognizable by their unique roots, known as cypress knees, that rise above the surface of the water. As you boat between these striking trees, you will notice that the waters are a deep, murky black. This color is a result of the tannic acid present in cypress, oak, and other trees whose leaves fall into the marsh and decompose. Many wildlife species call cypress swamps home. If you’re interested in visiting one of these unique ecosystems, two areas in Providence Forge provide public access to cypress swamps.
Game Farm Marsh
Game Farm Marsh, a Wildlife Management Area owned by the Department of Wildlife Resources, and Crawfords State Forest, owned by the Department of Forestry, both border the Chickahominy River and allow for the public to visit, view, and utilize these areas.
Game Farm Marsh is a 429 acre wetland accessible only by boat from commercial ramps on Chickahominy Lake. It is located east of Richmond on U.S. Route 60, approximately halfway between Providence Forge and Walkers Dam, on the Chickahominy River.
Navigation through the swamp can be difficult due to submerged vegetation. However, this vegetation is an excellent food source for wildlife, and many species of bird can be spotted from Game Farm Marsh, from herons to osprey and wood ducks. Other wildlife is abundant and includes beavers as well as a variety of fish species that will appeal to those looking for fishing opportunities.
Further information on Game Farm Marsh can be found on DWR’s website at this link.
Crawfords State Forest
Six miles west of Game Farm Marsh, Crawfords State Forest is a great option for those looking for more upland recreation opportunities near the Chickahominy.
With forest types ranging from the cypress swamps along the river to pines and upland hardwoods stretching across 264 acres, Crawfords State Forest serves a wide variety of uses. This state forest produces timber, provides wildlife habitat, and is used for research and demonstration, water quality protection, and recreation. Permitted recreation activities for visitors to Crawfords State Forest are hiking and mountain biking. Mountain biking will require a state forest use permit (more information on state forest use permits can be found here: State Forest Use Permit). Access to the trailhead for 1.5 miles of forest trails and 0.8 miles of forest road can be reached on the south side of Route 60 / Pocahontas Trail, 1.75 miles west of Providence Forge. A small grass parking lot provides space for vehicles, however no other facilities are available so plan to spend the day in the woods and leave-no-trace if you go!
Before visiting a state forest, please review the Department of Forestry’s informational page here with helpful guides for planning your trip.
Whether you choose to view one of these striking cypress swamps by water at Game Farm Marsh, or hike through the trees and look out across the knees rising out of the river at Crawfords State Forest, you will find that the Chickahominy’s cypress swamps are a sight to behold.