Bald Eagle at Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge.
Bald Eagle at Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.
APRIL 20, 2014 BY by Bradley Caricofe, Filed: Bald Eagle Photography

The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Lorton, Virginia, presents a “sure thing” destination for eagle spotters. Acquired by the federal government in 1969, Mason Neck was the first national wildlife refuge dedicated solely to the conservation of bald eagles.

Thanks to efforts led by conservationist Elizabeth Hartwell, the entire Mason Neck peninsula, which is also home to Mason Neck State Park, Pohick Bay Regional Park, and Gunston Hall (home of Founding Father George Mason), is an area teeming with bald eagle activity. Hartwell’s crusade against a developer’s plans for Mason Neck culminated with the establishment of the 2,277 acre refuge.

In 2006, Congress honored her by renaming the site Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.


Address: High Point Road, Lorton, VA 22079
GPS: 38.637679, -77.167094
Phone: (703) 490-4979


The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck NWR is considered to be one of the top 10 bald eagle viewing locations in the continental United States.

The Great Marsh Trail is a short, straight, and relatively flat, 3/4 mile walk to an observation deck that offers sweeping views of a large marsh area that is a frequent haunt of bald eagles. The well-maintained trail is paved and offers excellent accessibility for wheelchairs.

This is one of the best spots at Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck NWR for spotting bald eagles. We recommend going on a weekday when the refuge is less crowded. Bald eagles will often fly right over your heads while you’re standing on the observation platform.

The trailhead is located at a small parking lot off of Gunston Road (see marker on map), about a mile past the main entrance to the refuge and Mason Neck State Park. The parking lot is gated, and may be closed on days with inclement weather.

The Woodmarsh Trail begins at a parking area on the left side of the access road (High Point Road, see marker on map) in to Mason Neck State Park. After leaving the parking lot, hike through the hardwood forest for about .8 mile until you find a marker indicating a left turn to follow the path to the observation deck. A longer loop hike option is available at this point.

Once you reach the observation deck, you will find yourself directly across the Great Marsh Trail observation deck, which can be seen in the distance. A Mark 1 telescope is available for free use at the observation deck.

This is a fun hike but not as accessible as the Great Marsh Trail. The observation decks on either trail can offer great views of eagles.



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