Go with the Flow

Native Plant Walk test content module 1

From where does Spruce Creek originate?

Spruce Creek is a tributary of the South Fork Rockfish River that springs to life from headwaters 2.8 miles from here at 2,000 feet elevation near the base of Bryant Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there, it winds its way down into the Rockfish Valley, passing through Nellysford precisely where you’re standing now. From here, the stream picks up pace and flows east into the South Fork Rockfish River, which Stony Creek also feeds into, winding its way through the valley and merging with the Rockfish River near Pilot Mountain Hollow. The Rockfish then wends its way through the Piedmont eventually joining the James River 20 miles southeast of here at Howardsville. Finally, the James River discharges into the Chesapeake Bay a further 165 miles southeast in the Hampton Roads area.


  • “tributary” – a stream feeding a larger stream, a river, or a lake
  • “headwaters” – the source of a stream
  • “elevation” – the height above the level of the sea; altitude
  • “flow” – to move with a continual change of place among the constituent particles
  • “discharge” – to pour forth fluid or other contents; a flowing or issuing out; a rate of flow

What do your senses tell you about where you are?

Close your eyes for a moment and listen to what’s going on around you at this spot.
What do you hear? The sound of the creek burbling by? The sounds of insects and other creatures whizzing by as they weave in and out of the plants surrounding the creek? The sound of leaves rustling as the breeze rushes through them?
What do you feel? The sun on your arms? The humidity on your skin? The breeze drifting across your face? What else?
All that you see, hear, smell, and feel characterizes a sense of place—this place, right here at Spruce Creek.


  • “burble” – to make a bubbling sound

What plants do you see growing near the creek?

Flora includes not only plant life but, also, bacterial and fungal life. Spruce Creek nourishes many forms of life as it flows by, including the native plants you see before you.


  • “flora” – plant, bacterial, or fungal life, especially such life characteristic of a region, period, or special environment

What wildlife do you see or imagine living in or near the creek?

The fauna that calls this place home can be seen all along the creek and throughout the park. From the butterflies floating by to the dragonflies whizzing by, from the frogs leaping about to the snakes slithering along the creek bank, there is a diversity of natural life here that exemplifies the creatures of this region.


  • “fauna” – animal life, especially the animals characteristic of a region, period, or special environment
  • “diversity” – an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities; composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities

To where does Spruce Creek flow?

Before finding its way to the ocean, Spruce Creek deposits into the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, which is fed by numerous rivers, creeks, and streams along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. The creek and all the other waterways in this part of Virginia are part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a vast hydrogeologic region that stretches all the way from Upstate New York to South Central Virginia. This is how a small creek in Rockfish Valley is a part of and affects the larger hydrologic processes that impact our environment.


  • “estuary” – a water passage where a sea tide meets a river current, especially an arm of the sea at the lower end of a river
  • “watershed” – a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water
  • “hydrogeology” – a branch of geology concerned with the occurrence, use, and functions of surface water and groundwater
  • “hydrology” – a science dealing with the properties, distribution, and circulation of water on and below the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere