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- EssaysEric Dinerstein Bill Young
Virtual Tour of Monticello Park
Monticello Park is located at 320 Beverley Drive in Alexandria, Virginia. The main (north) entrances are on Beverley Drive. Parking is available on both sides of Beverley Drive, except for the area near the entrances.
The south entrance to the park is between 2803 and 2807 Old Dominion Boulevard, and parking is available on the street. This entrance is marked with a small sign that can be seen from the street.
Below is a satellite map of Monticello Park so that you can familiarize yourself with the entrances, paths, trails, and some of the landmarks referred to in this virtual tour. The blue line is the stream. A list of the abbreviations is below the map.
E - Entrance
B - Bridge
Az - Azalea House
D - Dog Exercise Area
K - Kust Property
NC- North Culvert
SC - South Culvert
T - T-Junction on Ridge Path
Tr - Trail
Wr - Wren Box House
W - Weir
Monticello Park is small, and it has no restrooms or portable toilets. It is about an eighth of a mile from one end to the other, and a stream runs the entire length of the park. If the park were larger, you could say that the stream is in a "valley" between two sloped areas.
The two entrances on Beverley Drive are very close to each other. One runs along the stream.
The other entrance has a kiosk on one side and a Monticello Park sign on the other.
The two paths meet near the only bridge in the park, about 75 yards from Beverley Drive. The bridge is a popular place for birders to stand and watch bathing birds.
The stream sometimes is dry. When it contains water during the spring, birds often bathe in the portion that runs north from the bridge to the culvert near Beverley Drive. A culvert is a pipe or passageway that allows water to flow under a road or trail. Birds often use "diving boards" — sticks or branches on the shore that are landing places as they prepare to enter the water. They also use the bollards (the thick vertical posts) as a place to land before entering.
Birds also bathe in the stream on the south side of the bridge:
East Stream Path
If you cross the bridge, you will be on the East Stream Path. You immediately will come to the dog exercise area, which has a bench as well as a picnic table with seating. Some birders bring their lunch and eat at the park.
In June, 2012, a derecho hit Monticello Park, knocking down many trees. Two large trees fell across the East Stream Path. Openings have been cut in both trees so that people can use the path. The trees act as an informal southern boundary for the dog exercise area.
About 20 feet of the stump of the second tree is in the stream and sticking straight into the air.
Ten yards past the second tree is an intersection with the Ridge Path, which leads up a hill. If you stay on the East Stream Path for another 35 yards, you will come to an open section of the stream where a lot of birds go to bathe and drink. Be sure to check the stream in both directions for bathing birds.
Continuing on the East Stream Path, you will pass weirs in three different areas of the stream over the next 75 yards. The weirs are concrete structures that restrict the flow of the stream to try to prevent erosion.
The third weir is near a culvert at the south end of the park.
At the south end of Monticello Park is the intersection of the East Stream Path and the south end of the Ridge Path. Here is a panoramic view shot from this area.
The East Stream Path loops around the culvert, leading to the West Stream Path. Crossing the culvert requires walking down an incline, which can be muddy and slippery after rain. You should be careful even in dry conditions when walking down this slope.
West Stream Path
If you come in one of the Beverley Drive entrances and do not cross the bridge, you can walk along the narrower West Stream Path. The stream will be on your left, and trees and vegetation will be on your right. This portion of the stream often features many bathing birds, and the trees and vegetation often have a lot of foraging activity. At midstream, you will soon come to one of the downed trees, and the path curves around it. Sometimes, songbirds forage under the tree and go into the stream.
After the curve is a wider portion of the stream in which many birds bathe, and you sometimes can see waterthrushes bobbing around. Here is a panoramic view from the West Stream Path. In this area, the West Stream path intersects the north end of the Knoll Path, which leads up a hill. If you continue on the West Stream Path, you can see that a portion of it has become very narrow because of erosion of the stream bank. Be very careful when walking on this section of the path.
You will next walk along an area of the West Stream Path with vegetation on both sides, and you will not be able to see into the stream. Both a Fringe Tree and Smooth Carrion Flowers are among the flora you can see in this portion. You will shortly be able to see into the stream again and will reach the intersection with the south end of the Knoll Path, which is about 80 yards from the north end and about 60 yards before the south end of the park. In those next 60 yards, you will walk past the three weirs, and this area can be excellent for seeing birds in the trees and in the water.
In addition to the two paths running along the stream, you can walk along the ridge on the east side of the stream. The entire length of the Ridge Path is especially good for finding thrushes and ground-feeding bird species.
Just past the south end of the dog exercise area is an intersection with the path that leads up the hill to the ridge. This path forks, and both ends of the fork lead to the top of the ridge. If you take the right fork, you will come to a T-junction. If you head south at the T-junction, the high portion of the Ridge Path leads toward the culvert at the south end of the park. This section of the path runs by the backyards of houses on Richmond Lane and Monticello Boulevard.
If you go north at the T-junction, you will first come to a yard containing multiple nest houses for House Wrens (the "Wren Box House" on the map). Each spring, the wrens nest in these houses and sing loudly to defend their territories.
A little farther along the path, you will come to the point you would have reached had you taken the left fork when coming up the hill rather than bearing right toward the T-junction. This point is at the beginning of a long fence that forms the boundary between the park and the Kust property. Part of the fence is wood, and part is chain link.
Going north, the path ends near the Beverley Boulevard entrance to the park. There is no safe path leading down to the stream at that point. You can either retrace your steps and go back to the T-junction, or you can walk along the slightly lower portion of the path that runs parallel to the part you were just on. The lower portion is more sloped, and footing can be difficult in some places because of acorns on the ground, so it is safer and easier to retrace your steps on the upper portion.
A third option at the T-junction is to stay there. You will be considerably higher than when you are at stream level, and you will have a better chance to see birds in the canopy without getting "warbler neck". Here is a panoramic view from the T-junction. If you look in the direction of the stream, you will see the Tulip Poplar whose trunk is full of sapsucker holes.
When you cross the culvert at the south end of the park and walk for 60 yards along the West Stream Path, you will come to an intersection with the south end of the Knoll Path. The Knoll Path is a loop that leads up to the knoll and back down to the West Stream Path. If you walk up the hill, you will come to a junction. To your left will be the backyards of houses on Old Dominion Boulevard. In front of you will be an open area with the remains of fallen trees. To your right will be a continuation of the Knoll Path. Here is a panoramic view from this spot.
If you turn right and continue about 60 yards along the Knoll Path, you will come to a fallen tree that has had an opening cut through it.
If you look to your left, you will see a house whose yard is filled with azaleas (the "Azalea House" on the map), which are beautiful when in bloom during the spring bird migration.
Some of the surrounding trees often have a lot of bird activity.
Past the downed tree is a hill that leads down to the West Stream Path just south of midstream. Because of the steepness of the hill, please watch your footing.
A few small trails are in the park. One is near the bridge and leads up the hill from the West Stream Path. A bit farther along the West Stream Path at midstream is another trail that leads up the hill. There is no trail that runs the entire length of the top of the hill on the west side as there is on the east side. A small portion of the park continues along Beverley Drive. Just past the northwest corner of the park, a pair of Mississippi Kites nested in 2017.
Monticello Park has a lot of poison ivy, so if you are allergic, take proper precautions. Please stay on the main paths and trails, and do not walk through vegetation.
The Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities of the City of Alexandria has posted a sign with the rules for the park.
Here are the park hours.
The Maps page has an interactive Google map to get driving directions to Monticello Park as well as information about how to reach the park by public transportation.