The Prince William County Department of Public Works Historic Preservation Division is the proud caretaker of the Julie J. Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve. We encourage everyone to visit this unique habitat. Enjoy the sights and sounds of an emerging wetland, learn about the history of this important waterway, meet unusual insects face-to-face, or watch a snowy egret take flight.
The wetlands are named for Julie J. Metz, an environmental scientist with the Army Corps of Engineers. She chaired the Federal Inter-Agency work group responsible for preparing the Federal Policy on Wetlands Mitigation Banking. This project was one of the first mitigation banks to be created. Julie J. Metz passed away from breast cancer in 1995. It was named in her honor and reflects her outstanding work and accomplishments.
The History of Neabsco Creek
Neabsco Creek has a long and important history in the Woodbridge area.
- The creek was first mapped by Captain John Smith in 1608. By the early 18th century, Neabsco was an important waterway to the local community.
- John Tayloe built Neabsco Iron Furnaces began producing iron ore. It was located a short distance upstream from the wetlands. The furnaces were a critical source of munitions for the Americans during the American Revolution. The munitions created at the Neabsco Iron Furnaces were so vital to the American military that the British government order the furnaces to be destroyed during the War of 1812. The mission failed. Tayloe's Furnace continued in operation until the 1920s.
- All along Neabsco Creek wharves and shipyards existed. These points along the creek were important to the agricultural and other industries of the time. Richard and Thomas Blackburn at Rippon Lodge maintained one of these wharfs for the shipment of their agricultural and timber products to England before the American Revolution and elsewhere afterward.
- The Town of Dumfries was a large and thriving port on the Potomac River, which is adjacent to Neabsco Creak. It was a major port in the early days of America.
- Many local farmers grew tobacco which depleted the soil and cut down timber, creating the opportunity for significant run off of soil from the fields. The run off made its way into local waterways, and eventually silted in many creeks and the Potomac River. As a result of these poor land practices, the water levels lowered and the Port of Dumfries was no longer accessible by larger boats. The Port of Dumfries was abandoned by the 1790s.
- Concurrently, the same runoff and siltation were beginning to affect Neabsco Creek. By the late 1800s, the entire area currently occupied by the Wetlands was clear cut of timber resulting in more runoff and silt. The siltation of the waterway led to the creation of wetlands that were filled with shrub and scrub plants and the flooding of adjacent low lying areas. So the wetlands really began in the 19th century making them a historically important area.
What is a Wetland?
The Environmental Protection Agency defines a wetland as "lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface (Cowardin, December 1979). Wetlands vary widely because of regional and local differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors, including human disturbance. Wetlands are found from the tundra to the tropics and on every continent except Antarctica."
Wetlands are natural treasures because they provide flood control and slow run off, which helps to improve water quality. Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands helps to protect and restore not only the creek, but the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It is a rich and diverse wildlife habitat with 200 observed plant and 200 observed bird species alone.
Construction of the Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands
This preserve is the first wetlands bank in Northern Virginia approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A wetlands bank provides a valuable alternative to traditional wetlands mitigation requirements for projects permitted by the Corps in Northern Virginia. Wetlands mitigation banks are areas of constructed, restored, or preserved wetlands consisting of quantified value units termed "credits" that can be purchased by developers in advance of anticipated wetlands losses due to construction activities. This ensures a community can continue to have the valuable functions of wetlands even when natural wetlands are lost during development.
The Metz Wetlands Bank is a ±227 acre parcel of land that will be preserved in perpetuity by a recorded conservation easement, containing over 217 acres of created and preserved wetlands, 10 acres of upland buffers and almost 2 miles of nature trails. Pods 1 and 2 were built in the last half of 1995. The other pods were constructed in the last half of 1997.
What to Expect When You Visit
For nature lovers, the wetlands are a fantastic place to observe birds, beavers, deer, butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles and native plants of all kinds. When visiting the wetlands be sure to pick up the walking trail guides. There are three guides to help you enjoy and appreciate three different aspects of the Wetlands. The first is a general nature trail guide. The second and third guides feature information about the plants and birds (coming soon) to aide in your enjoyment of the wetlands. The guides are available at the kiosk in the parking lot or you can download them here.
The Julie J Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve is part of the Potomac Heritage Trail, a National Park Service Trail that runs from the Allegheny Highlands to the mouth of the Potomac River. A National Park Service Passport stamp for the trail may be obtained at the Rippon Lodge Historic Site gift shop.
The trails are unpaved and there are narrow boardwalks in some areas. Parking is limited. Please stay on the trails and help us keep the preserve clean by packing out your trash.
The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) will continue to work with the agencies and individuals who have built and maintained the Wetlands up until this spring to ensure the continued success of this important area. HPD will be adding more interpretive signage and programming to the site, along with working with local Eagle Scouts troops and our County Supervisor to improve the preserve's boardwalks.
If you have any questions about the Wetlands, please contact the staff at Rippon Lodge Historic Site at 703-499-9812.
Directions: The wetland is located at 15875 Neabsco Road in Woodbridge.
From I-95 take exit 156 to Rippon Landing Blvd. Turn right onto Route 1. Turn left on Neabsco Road. Follow Neabsco Road just past Leesylvania Elementary School. The parking lot is on your left.
Historic Preservation Division thanks Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. for their continued stewardship and support of the Julie J. Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve.