Habitats / Ecosystems
Lets go wild for wildlife!
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve plays host to at least six distinct ecosystems. Get an overview of these below to begin to understand the importance of this place to the many creatures that call it home.
The Norther woodlands used to be a tree farm, which has made it unique from the woodlands on the south side of the preserve. Lots of Loblollies and an incredible amount of bird life are the markers of this ecosystem. Hike the Homestead trail to get intimate with the wildlife here, and be sure to bring a good camera!
The southern woodlands are filled with pines and hardwoods, making this mixed forest a home for a myriad of creatures, including fierce birds of prey! Hike the Riparian trail, or the southern section of the Ballard trail to get a glimpse of the life here, and notice the scores of American Sycamore trees which are larger than many others in the area.
The Hoffler Creek
The tidal creek for which the preserve is named. Rent a kayak from the visitors center and enter the flowing waters from the newly installed creek-side kayak launch. During low tide, check out the throngs of fiddler crabs and oysters making a living along it's shores, or venture into the surrounding salt marsh... just don't forget your bug spray!
Ballard Lake is the centerpiece of the whole preserve - formed from a VDOT borrow pit in the 1990s and filled with brackish water from the creek, this lake has become a hotbed for research in Portsmouth. Learn about it's history from the visitor's center, or venture out to the lake deck to see it for yourself! The Ballard Lake trail will take you around the entire lake in about 1 mile.
A riparian is the bank of a waterway, usually defined as extending from the edge of the water to about 30 feet inland. this strip of land is SO important to the many throngs of creatures that require the resources present in this specific ecosystem. Check out Riparian trail for a closer look at the critters who call this habitat home.
The Salt Marsh
Salt Marshes are disappearing from Virginia as human urbanization continues to encroach. Head down the Bluebird Trail to the Salt Marsh Deck to see one of the healthiest salt mashes in Portsmouth, and learn about why this habitat is so important while you observe the wildlife that depends on this unique environment. Or get out on the creek in a kayak to explore it close up!