Huntley Meadows

Wetlands Restoration


Huntley Meadows Park is the site of a major wetlands restoration program and an associated collaborative research program. The park was established in 1975 and covers approximately 1,500 acres. The central wetland area is one of the largest non-tidal wetlands of its kind in Northern Virginia. Since the late 70s, the central wetland has transitioned from a flooded forested wetland, into a hemi-marsh* and then to a lake marsh due to beaver damming activities. However, as a result of recent consecutive droughts, siltation from upstream development north of the park, beaver activities, herbivorous feeding habits of Canada geese, and natural succession, the wetland has deteriorated to a dry marsh/wet meadow with uniform shallow water levels. These conditions promoted the development of large stands of invasive species such as broad-leaved cattail (Typha latifolia L.) within the park, reducing habitat, and thus wildlife diversity.

The project’s goal is to increase biodiversity and ecological function (e.g. water quality) within Huntley Meadows Park by restoring the central wetland area to a hemi-marsh system, with presumed higher levels of biodiversity and ecological function. The hemi-marsh will contain roughly 50 percent open water and 50 percent vegetated wetland in the winter, will dry out in the summer, will have more woody shrubs than currently present, and will have fewer non-desirable herbaceous plants, such as cattails. The restored wetland system will provide annual forage and a diversity of habitat quality for target plant and animal species that were once observed at the wetland and will prevent the dominance of invasive plant species.

To create and maintain the hemi-marsh condition, water control structures were installed over the summer and fall of 2013. These structures are used to raise the overall water surface and to vary the water level to mimic seasonal changes typical of hemi-marshes. Project implementation was supervised by Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. and links to various background documents and project plans can be found below.

*A hemi-marsh is a type of wetland that typically found in areas where water levels are too deep to support extensive woody vegetation. Hemi-marshes are characterized by a mix of emergent vegetation and submersed plant life associated with shallow open water environments.

Project Background Documents from Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc.

Huntley Meadows Final Wetlands Restoration Plan
Huntley Meadows Operations, Monitoring, and Maintenance Plan - This file is large.
Vegetation Map: Pre-construction
Vegetation Map: Post-construction -Spring 2014
Vegetation Map: Post-construction - Fall 2014
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