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Green Pastures Recreation Area


In 1936, during the era of segregation in the US, the lobbying efforts of the Clifton Forge NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) chapter spurred President Franklin D. Roosevelt to direct the establishment of a recreation area open to African Americans. The Civilian Conservation Corps began construction in 1938, not far from Douthat State Park, and Green Pastures opened for the first time on June 15, 1940 under the management of the Forest Service. It was an oasis for Black families during the Jim Crow era, with a lake, sand beach, hiking trails, picnic shelter, bathhouse, and more. The area was officially desegregated in 1950 but it remained a beloved outdoor space for African Americans for many more years. In 1963, the name was changed to Longdale Recreation Area like the surrounding town. Budget constraints forced the Forest Service to close it in 2017 and the area fell into disuse. Under the shared stewardship of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Forest Service, Green Pastures Recreation Area reopened to the public as a satellite location of Douthat State Park on September 24, 2021, and now it’s an oasis for everyone. 

Nature began reclaiming the area while it was closed which, when combined with the work DCR has already done, creates a peculiar mix of habitats: Mature multispecies forest, mountain stream, manmade lake, early successional, open fields, and unused buildings draw in a rich diversity of birds, large and small mammals, butterflies and other insects, amphibians, and reptiles. Green Pastures opens every year on the first Friday of May which is just in time for spring migration. Almost any migrant could be found here. The stream should be checked for warblers and thrushes. In summer, expect songbirds like red-eyed and blue-headed vireos, and eastern wood-pewees. Tiger and spicebush swallowtails are the standouts of the many butterfly species. The edges of the lake are alive with frogs, dragon- and damselflies, and could be hiding a hunting green heron. There are several short connector trails found throughout the area that meet up with Forest Service trails like the Anthony Knob and North Mountain trails where higher elevation species like cerulean warbler occurs. 

Shy species, such as eastern towhees, can be found in the early successional habitat reclaiming the roadways yet to be restored. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease 

Skulking species, such as eastern towhees, can be found in the early successional habitat reclaiming the roadways yet to be restored. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease/DWR

Restoring Green Pastures is a work in progress. The front section looks like a new state park with picnic tables, pit toilets, a footbridge over the stream, and open fields. The area beyond the lake and CCC picnic shelter is wilder but definitely worth exploring. Nearly the entire network of old asphalt roadways is still intact and accessible, especially so in early May when the plants are small. Eastern towhees, northern cardinals, indigo buntings, and American goldfinches are common on the roadsides. 


  • A self-pay kiosk is found at the first parking lot. Visitors with a valid Virginia state park pass do not need to pay the fee; there is no discount for federal passes.
  • Some Forest Service trails in the area are seldom used and can be difficult to follow, so a good map is essential. 


Physical Address: 201 Green Pasture Trail, Clifton Forge, VA 24422

From Clifton Forge, head east on US-60 Business E/Main St, turn right onto SR-632/Longdale Furnace Rd, continue onto VA-269 E/Longdale Furnace Rd, turn right onto F271/Tri County Rd, slight right onto Green Pasture Trail, and follow it to the parking area.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: (540) 862-8100,
  • Website
  • Access: Fee, Daily. Open first Friday in May through last Friday in October.

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Fee
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Information
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Historical Site