Charlotte State Forest opens for use

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 1, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Five months after former Governor Ralph Northam dedicated Charlotte County’s first ever state forest, the location is set to open for public recreational use beginning April 1.

Located along Saxkey Road in Drakes Branch, a designated Virginia Scenic Byway, the 5,004- acre state forest includes approximately 13 miles of the Roanoke and Wards Ford Creeks — two tributary streams to the Roanoke River, a designated Virginia Scenic River.

The land is adjacent to Double Bridges Road and Mossingford Road near Drakes Branch.

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) recreational uses of the Charlotte State Forest include hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, horseback riding and wildlife watching.

The forest is restricted to foot traffic only and no motorized vehicles are allowed past forest gates.

One of the highlights of the state forest is Roanoke Creek, which is a navigable waterway bordered by a large wetlands area with abundant wildlife, and suitable for fishing, hunting, canoeing and wildlife viewing.

A State Forest Use Permit is required for individuals aged 16 and older to hunt, fish, trap, horseback ride or mountain bike on state forest lands. The permit can be purchased online or where hunting licenses are sold.

Only non-motorized boats are allowed on state forest waterways for fishing and water recreation.

Fishing is subject to state fishing regulations and license requirements, in addition to the State Forest Use Permit.

For horseback riding, State law requires that visitors carry a copy of a negative Coggins test report with each horse on state lands.

For hunters a valid Virginia hunting license and a State Forest Use Permit is needed.

The forest was owned by Governor Thomas B. Stanley, who served from 1954 to 1958, and the Stanley Land and Lumber Corporation before The Conservation Fund’s purchase in 2019.

The purpose of the corporation was to manufacture hardwood lumber on a 4,000-acre tract of land in Charlotte County called the Greenwood Game Preserve, owned by Stanley.

The company’s primary business involved the operation of two small, portable sawmills on the property, with much of the logging being done by horses and mules.

By the mid-1950s, much of the timber had been harvested, and the company gradually shifted into drying and planing pine lumber for local building and construction projects.

Stanley was also an avid outdoorsman, and The Greenwood Tract provided a tremendous recreational opportunity for his family, friends and business associates.

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, the property encompassed a variety of wildlife habitats, including abandoned farmland, cultivated grain and tobacco fields and several thousand acres of upland forest.

Stanley Land and Lumber Corporation property manager for 41 years Phillip Walker said preserving the land was an idea that has now turned into a reality.

“The people of Virginia will now have the same opportunity to enjoy what I have for a lifetime.” Walker said.