Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

The Central Virginia Strategy
developing managerial alternatives
for regional Commonwealth
wildlife management areas

The Central Virginia Strategy (hereinafter the Strategy) documents a cost effective way to manage creatively five wildlife management areas around Farmville and Longwood University in central Virginia. This is a proposal, a document for discussion and hopefully extensive agreements. Its format allows widespread distribution, a relatively cost effective distribution, ample sharing of ideas, and increasing precision. It will be continually changing and expanding as the author receives comments and suggestions. Perhaps it will become a model for use elsewhere within the state or other places. It is proposed by Rural System, Inc., a not-for- profit group deeply dedicated to the diverse wildlife resource and to the many rural resources upon which it depends ... and which are affected by it.

symbolizing many simple future relationsThe five wildlife management areas (WMA) and responsible staff and phone numbers are:


The System

The Context

The Rural System, Inc.

The business plan for Rural System, Inc. can be read at ../aRuralBusiness/businessplanwh.htm The Overview and Design for the company is available through the first page of


What Rural System, Inc. Will Do

What Department Staff Will Do


Farmville is about as close to a number of Department of Game and Inland Fisheries properties as any place in Virginia. Briery Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located only 15 minutes south of Farmville. Horsepen WMA is located within ½ hour north, and James River WMA, Hardware River WMA, and Powhatan WMA are all within about 45 minutes drive to the north and northeast. Briery Creek and Horsepen are in Cale Godfrey's district (434-392-9645), James River is in Jay Jeffreys' district (434-525-7522), and Hardware River and Powhatan are in Brad Howard's district (804-752-5502).
Nelson Lafon, January 6, 2003


Briery Creek

Cale Godfrey (434-392-9645)

Prince Edward County


Although Briery Creek means fishing to most people, the heavily forested hills surrounding this 845 acre lake provide a number of hunting opportunities as well. This 3,164 acre area is located in Prince Edward County about seven miles south of Farmville.

The area’s gently rolling hills are typical of the topography of the south-central Piedmont. The nucleus of the area is Briery Creek Lake, formed by damming Briery Creek and Little Briery Creek. Much of the land was originally farmed in some fashion and for a number of years experienced substantial soil erosion. More recently, previous owners timbered much of the land surrounding the lake. Some of these areas now contain mixed hardwoods. Other areas, those formerly owned by wood products companies, contain pure stands of loblolly pine.


The mixed woodlands surrounding the lake provide opportunities to hunt forest game normally available to the Piedmont. Deer turkey and squirrel hunting are productive on this area. Abandoned farm fields add to the quality of the woodland habitat for deer and turkey, while providing some limited opportunities for rabbit and quail hunting. One field, just south of the dam near Route 15, is managed for dove hunting. Waterfowl hunting is available on the lake and is best in the heads of coves. Wood ducks are common early in the fall while mallards and diving ducks become more prevalent later in the fall and in the winter months.


Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the area is the large fishing lake. Since its opening in 1989, Briery Creek Lake has offered exceptional sport fishing. The predominant species include largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish and chain pickerel. An abundance of underwater structure provide excellent fish habitat but can make navigation difficult.


A modern boat ramp and courtesy pier are located just off Route 790 near the dam. A large paved parking lot and toilet facility are available at the ramp. A nature trail begins at the parking area on Route 790 at the dam and winds along the lake shore. Shoreline fishing access is available near the dam and at the causeway located at the end of Route 790. Other access points for shoreline fishing are Route 701 (on the east and west sides of the lake) and Route 705.

Other Activities and Places

Due to the large expanses of open water there are some unusual bird-watching opportunities available at Briery Creek. Ospreys, an occasional bald eagle, and a variety of waterfowl species can be seen on or near the lake seasonally.

Not far from Briery Creek, off US 360 near Meherrin and Green Bay in Prince Edward County, is the Twin Lakes State Park and the Prince Edward Gallion State Forest which also provide fishing, hunting, camping and cabins. Directions: Take U.S. 15 south from U.S. 460 at Farmville, or U.S. 15 north from U.S. 360 at Keysville to Route 790. Biologists sample Briery Creek Lake (845-acre) each spring with an electrofishing boat to monitor the fish populations. The lake was formed by damming Briery Creek and Little Briery Creek. About 70% of Briery Creek Lake anglers (from across Virginia) fish for largemouth bass and most (82%) fish there in hopes of catching a trophy fish. A boat ramp was dedicated in 2002. A large fish (12 pound, 5 ounce bass from Briery Creek Lake) was taken in 2002. In 1986 and 1987 the lake was stocked with Florida strain largemouth bass, northern strain largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish (also known as shellcrackers), channel catfish, and crappie. Biologists hoped that the presence of Florida-strain bass and the complex habitat would produce a high quality largemouth bass fishery. Briery Creek Lake quickly began producing trophy largemouth bass and recognized as one of the state's premier bass fisheries. Biologists collected numerous trophy bass during electrofishing surveys in April, including two fish that exceeded 14 pounds! Anglers did well with lunker bass as the fish moved shallow to spawn in April and May. If you do not mind warm weather, fishing at Briery Creek Lake during the summer provides high catch rates for largemouth bass and sunfish.

Briery Creek Lake can be accessed off of Routes 790 and 701. At that parking area is a kiosk which provides visitors information on the Briery Creek Lake Wildlife Management Area, as well as information on fishing regulations. Just beyond the dam on Route 790 is a concrete boat ramp (with courtesy pier) with a large, paved parking area and two porta-john facilities.

The mixed woodlands surrounding the lake provide opportunities to hunt forest game normally available to the Piedmont.

Hardware River WMA

Brad Howard (804-752-5502)

Fluvanna County

Hardware River WMA- Has one field of 8 acres of sunflowers in good condition.

Hardware River

Named for the river that meanders both along its boundary and through its interior, the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area is sometimes best known for the access it provides to the James River. It has hunting, hiking and wildflower viewing potentials.

The majority of the Hardware Wildlife Management Area is wooded, primarily with hardwood species. These include many of the oaks, plus maple, hickory and gum. Some pure pine stands are found on the highest ground. These stands occupy former farm land abandoned during the early thirties. Except for the low-ground along the James River, this is an area of low ridges and gentle slopes. Elevations range from 250 feet, at the confluence of the Hardware and James Rivers, to 450 feet. Virtually the entire 1,034 acre management area is in a single tract, the only exception being a very small outlying tract to the east. Most of the area is well drained by two streams, the Hardware River and Dobby Creek. The low-lying areas along the flood plain of the James are always subject to flooding and on occasion are completely under water.


Excellent deer and turkey populations in Fluvanna County spell good news for users of the management area seeking these species. Hunting opportunity in the wooded upland is also excellent for squirrel during most years and there is the occasional grouse. Woodland management is directed towards providing desirable habitat for these and other woodland wildlife. Open field at the lower end of the Hardware River and along the James are managed for farm game species. Management practices include the manipulation of native vegetation and permanent and annual plantings. Included are annual plantings made specifically to attract doves. The easy access to the James River provides good opportunity to hunt waterfowl.


Fishing for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and a variety of sunfish can be excellent from the banks of both the Hardware River and the James. Where it passes the management area, the James offers fast water and is best known to anglers for its smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish.


A concrete boat ramp provides small boat and canoe access to the James River just upstream from the mouth of the Hardware. There is ample room for parking near the boat ramp, and other parking areas are located for access to the upland.

In addition to fishing, this area serves river enthusiasts of other kinds. The area’s shore line is often used for an overnight stay by those floating the James. This is allowed subject to Department restrictions. Those interested in wildflowers will find gentian, wild ginger, squaw root, and lady slippers in abundance on the area. Directions: The WMA is located south of state route 6, east of Scottsville. From Scottsville turn right onto 611 to access the western portion of the area. To access the eastern portion of the area and the boat ramp, continue east on route 6 and turn right onto route 646. Consult the map for more detail.

Horsepen Lake WMA

Cale Godfrey (434-392-9645)

Buckingham County

Horsepen Lake Located near the geographic center of Virginia, Horsepen Lake Wildlife Management Area is centered by 18 acre Horsepen Lake, but offers much more. The management area totals 3,065 acres, mostly forested but with enough open land to insure its users a diversity of wildlife and outdoor related activities.

The area consists of 3,065 acres of rolling hills that are well-drained with numerous springs and small streams. It is situated on the southeastern part of the Slate River drainage at an elevation of about 500 feet above sea level. The area supports extensive pine and hardwood forest. The hardwoods include a mixture of mature oaks and hickory. Additionally, area's regenerating include mixed hardwoods, as well as pine. Bottomland hardwoods round out the timber types on the area.


The area's forests of recently regenerated pine and mixed oaks provide quality habitat for a variety of wildlife. The primary species are deer, turkeys and squirrels. Dove fields are planted on the north side of Route 768 which provides good to excellent hunting opportunities. Other game species available include rabbits, woodcock, quail and rarely, grouse. Numerous furbearers inhabit the area as well, including raccoons, foxes, beavers, otters, mink, opossums and muskrats. Habitat management involves the development of annual and perennial plantings for upland wildlife species in conjunction with an active forest management program. This enhances habitat for deer, turkeys, squirrels, quail, rabbits, grouse, and woodcock. The use of nesting boxes continues to attract wood ducks.

In 2002 there were two dove fields totaling 16 acres of sunflowers and wheat in excellent condition. Field #1-3 acres sunflowers, 3 acres wheat; Field #2- 5 acres sunflowers, 5 acres wheat.


The 18-acre Horsepen Lake was formed by a dam across Horsepen Creek. The lake offers fishing for largemouth, black crappie, and bluegill, pumpkinseed and redear sunfish. Additionally, channel catfish and northern pike have been stocked.


A concrete ramp offers good boating access to the lake. Parking is provided by a dozen parking areas placed throughout the area. A shelter is also available for your picnic lunch.

Trails are maintained regularly and get frequent use from scout troops and school groups for hiking and nature study. The variety of forest habitat makes it an excellent place for a variety of forest birds. Southwest of Horsepen is the Buckingham-Appomattox State Forest, Holiday Lake State Park and the Willis River which provides added hunting, fishing and camping opportunities. Situated near U.S. Route 60 in Buckingham County, the area is approximately 65 miles west of Richmond and 40 miles south of Charlottesville. Access to the area is from U.S. Route 60 at Buckingham Courthouse, the closest town. Just west of the courthouse take route 638 south to the area. Consult the map for additional detail.

James River WMA

Jay Jeffreys (434-525-7522)

Nelson County


Situated along the north side of its namesake, the James RiverWMA occupies land that was part of one of the many large estates that once flourished along the banks of Virginia's most famous river. Citizens may hunt, fish, canoe and otherwise enjoy this historic land.

The area's 1,213 acres vary from hilly in the upper woodland to level bottomland along the James River. Elevation ranges from 350 to 500 feet. The area fronts on the James River for a length of slightly over one mile. Approximately 200 acres of the area are open, a lingering result of past use for pasture and cropland. Other older fields have reverted to stands of Virginia pine. The remaining lands are hardwood-pine mix with the hardwood portion being dominated by a mixture of upland oaks and some hickory. Techniques used to enhance upland habitat includes the development of annual and perennial plantings, hedgerows, prescribed burning and strip-disking. Featured waterfowl management on the area is a six-acre controlled marsh impoundment. Here the water level can be drawn down during the growing season to encourage native plants that, when flooded, will provide food for waterfowl.


Hunting opportunities exist for an array of upland species, including deer, turkey, quail, raccoon, squirrel and rabbit. Management on the area is directed towards enhancing habitat for these and a variety of other resident wildlife species. Dove hunting is frequently good around the open fields near the river. There is waterfowl hunting opportunity on the managed impoundment and along the bank of the James or from a boat.

Dove fields were reported as follows in 2002: Two fields of sunflowers and wheat totaling 20 acres in good condition. Field #1-3 acres sunflowers, 5 acres wheat; Field #2- 5 acres of sunflowers, 7 acres of wheat.


The area fronts one of the better stretches of the James River for fishing. Anglers land smallmouth bass, various sunfishes and channel catfish. This section of the river is popular for float fishing. A one acre pond provides a variety of sunfish for those -- perhaps with young anglers -- not interested in fishing the river. The area has about a mile of access road and seven parking lots. A boat launching ramp provides year-round access to the James River.

The area attracts both game and non-game species, enhancing the opportunity to view a wide array of wildlife. Because of its close proximity to the James River, the area is attractive to birds common only in riparian habitats. The ramp access makes the area an excellent "put in" or "take out" point for James River canoeists. For fishermen, Lake Nelson and a number of trout stocked streams are nearby, west of the management area in Nelson County. The area is located approximately 15 miles south-east of Lovingston in the southeastern portion of Nelson County, near the community of Wingina. Access is from State Route 56, between Lovingston and Buckingham Court House, on Route 626 towards Howardsville.

Powhatan WMA

Brad Howard (804-752-5502).

Powhatan County

Only 25 miles west of Richmond and conveniently reached from U.S. Route 60, the 4462 acre Powhatan Wildlife Management Area provides a haven for outdoor enthusiasts near an expanding metropolitan area. The area's landscape of old fields, cultivated areas for habitat enhancement, wood lots and lakes provide for a diversity of wildlife species and outdoor recreational opportunity.

This is gently rolling upland, well drained by a number of small streams that make their way to Sallee Creek, which flows northward across the entire management area on its way to the James River. Due to the area's past use for farming, and some of the current wildlife management practices of burning and discing, much of the area is open fields. These openings, along with mature and newly emerging forests, assure a diversity of wildlife cover types. The area's acreage is contiguous although divided by route 60 and has one privately owned interior property. Water on the area includes, four "farm" ponds and the twin Powhatan Lakes. The center of the southern portion of the area range from 200 to about 350 feet.


Small game hunters will find quail, rabbit, squirrel, and dove within their preferred upland habitat. As anywhere, abundance will depend on summer production and, with doves, timing of the migration. The ample moist soil areas, along the larger streams and near the ponds and lakes are particularly attractive to woodcock. Deer are found throughout the area and turkey populations have been on the rise, with up to five gangs reported during good production years.

There were reported five fields totaling 55 acres of corn, sunflowers and wheat in excellent condition. Field #1- 4 acres corn, 4 acres sunflowers, 8 acres wheat; Field #2- 1.5 acres corn, 1.5 acres sunflowers, 3 acres wheat; Field #3- 3 acres corn, 3 acres sunflowers, 5 acres wheat; Field #4- 3 acres corn, 3 acres sunflowers, 5 acres wheat; Field #5- 3 acres corn, 3 acres sunflowers, 5 acres wheat.


Four ponds and two small lakes on the area are managed by the Department's Fish Division. The lakes are 32 and 26 acres and are located in the northern part of the area. Both are weedy and have brushy shorelines. However, for those who would like to avoid some of the brush, there are facilities for launching small boats. Submerged fish attractors have been constructed to improve fishing success. Available species include largemouth, black crappies, bluegills, chain pickerel, channel catfish, pumpkinseed sunfish and redear sunfish. The ponds range in size from two to nine acres. Cartop boats and canoes can be launched on the two larger ponds, Bass Pond and Sunfish pond.

The area has numerous easily accessible parking areas around its perimeter and at the lakes. A number of foot trails give hunters access and hikers the opportunity to chart their course and choose their distance.

In addition to hiking, the area is excellent for wildlife watching and photography. School groups and boy scouts often use the area for nature walks and study classes. The area is in the center of Powhatan County, and readily accessible from U.S. Route 60 about 3 miles west of Powhatan Courthouse. From route 60, turn north onto state route 684 to access the northern part of the area and the two lakes. Access to the southern portion of the area is from state route 13 south; or from route 60, south on route 601 or route 627. Consult the map for other roads, parking areas, etc.

Cottontail Abundance Index - approx 3.2 (Fies - 2002)

Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

Return to the top of page.