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Back to the Burling tract

Made or posted on Jan 26, 2013

Chestnuts near shore


Against the grays of oaks and beeches, white-topped sycamores mark the stream beds cutting through the Burling tract to the Potomac.

These winter views of the river and the woods on its shore, just north of the Beltway in Fairfax County, are gifts to the future from (among others) McLean-area taxpayers who voted themselves higher taxes to save 336 acres from subdivision construction in 1970. (I was a beginning newspaper reporter in Fairfax and watched the story unfold.)

Scotts Run Nature Preserve, preserved by referendum, was then known as “the Burling tract,” referring to the family of Edward Burling, a founder of the big Covington & Burling law firm. The stone chimney remaining from the Burlings’ old cabin was one of the few obvious signs that people had lived there.

At the south end of the park’s shore, you can see the Potomac from a high outcropping. Great Falls is a few miles upriver to the left, and the river at right enters another patch of rapids on its way to Washington. The Beltway bridge is just out of view downriver. Click on the fisheye panoramas to see larger images.

Potomac panorama from overlook

The next panorama shows the same stretch of Potomac from water level.

Potomac panorama from water level

Look back at the park from the higher viewpoint. In this panorama, the upstream view of the Potomac is at right, the downstream view at left.


Winter colors tend toward gray but there are patches of blue lichen, I think it is, reddish stone and luxuriant moss.

Life on rocky river shore

Though the stream beds are dry today, fungi and bugs are busy turning the park’s fallen trees into a new generation of mulch.

Gradual mulching of fallen trees

Hiking information | The Post looks back at events of 1970