Elevation: 2,198 feet
Nestled among the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau in Buchanan County, an elk viewing area with three wildlife viewing stations overlooks nearly 400 yards of restored grassland habitat, surrounded by woodland edges. Formerly the location of a strip mine operation, these restored grasslands were created to provide attractive sanctuaries for various wildlife, especially elk, by providing the food resources they need to thrive. Each viewing station has different viewing opportunities depending on the time of day. Elk, grassland birds, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and butterflies are often active and the occasional black bear may also be seen. Some of the bird species that may be observed include chipping sparrow, field sparrow, pine warbler, prairie warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, horned lark, eastern meadowlark, and killdeer. Wild flowers, in bloom from spring through September, add to the beauty of these sites.
A drivable dirt road that leads from the Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure Center links the three viewing stations. Each viewing station has its own small parking area and a shaded observation platform with seating for up to 25 people. The walking paths from each parking area to its observation platform are approximately 100 yards in length. Viewing station three, the closest viewing stand to the Adventure Center, also has an extensive parking area, allowing the opportunity to view wildlife right from your car.
These viewing stations were made possible through the support of the Virginia Department Wildlife Resources (DWR), Southwest Virginia Sportsman’s Club, Noah Horn Well Drilling, and Thompson Group, as well as the contribution of time and labor from volunteers from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Southwest Virginia Chapter (RMEF), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Mountaineer Farms, and Southwest Virginia Sportsman’s Club.
- For the best chance at seeing the elk, visit this site September through the end of October at dawn and dusk hours.
- The elk herd is not always present. The herd moves as needed to take advantage of the best grazing opportunities.
- Visitors must stay within the designated viewing stations, parking areas, and gravel paths. Do not wander into the restored habitat.
Additional Viewing Opportunities to See Elk
- Guided elk bus tours are available in the fall through Breaks Interstate Park and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
- Southern Gap Elk Fest occurs each October, featuring tours to view the elk amongst a number of other activities that celebrate the mountain heritage and culture of the region.
Physical Address for Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure Center (the access point for all three viewing stations):
1124 Chipping Sparrow Rd, Grundy, VA 24614
Location coordinates for each viewing station:
Station 1: 37.242170, -82.182687
Station 2: 37.245284, -82.171816
Station 3: 37.246320, -82.176415
From the intersection of US-460/Riverside Dr and VA-83/Lovers Gap Rd in Vansant, head southwest on VA-83 W/Lovers Gap Rd for 3.9 miles. Turn right onto State Rt 744 and continue 2.5 miles. Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure Center will be on the left. Turn left onto Chipping Sparrow Rd. A dirt road at the Adventure Center leads to the three viewing stands. Each stand has its own parking area.
Location & DirectionsView on Google Maps
- Site Contact: Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures: 276-244-1111, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Access: Open daily, Free
Seasonal Bird Observations
- Visitor/Nature Center
- Observation Platform