Huntley Meadows Park

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Visitor Center Hours: Closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

TTY 711

3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, Virginia

Karen Sheffield,

Huntley Meadows Park and Dogs

Domestic dogs are not allowed on the park’s 1/2-mile wetland boardwalk.

Leashed dogs are allowed on all other park trails.

Question: Why can't I bring my dog onto the wetland boardwalk? He's well behaved, and I always keep him on a leash. I'm sure he won't cause any trouble.
Answer: We understand that people would like to take their favorite pets onto the boardwalk. However, the rule banning dogs from the boardwalk is important and comes from both experience and scientific study. The main reasons:

  1) The boardwalk is narrow. There’s no shoulder or off-trail area. If two dogs meet and have an altercation, there could be injuries or there could be dogs or people falling into the wetland. If a dog attacks a person, there is nowhere to go. Several people and dogs have been bitten and injured on the boardwalk in these circumstances. Well-behaved dogs can instigate a dog fight with a more aggressive dog, and dog experts cannot predict how any two dogs will react to each other.

  2) Huntley Meadows is a wildlife sanctuary. Several rare and imperiled bird species nest in the wetland. Several studies show that even a leashed, well-behaved dog is perceived by nesting birds as a predator. This can prevent them from successful nesting. Studies have shown that a dog's presence can cause a 40% drop in bird numbers and a 35% drop in bird species. Several bird species that nest in the wetland do not breed anywhere else in Fairfax County.
Fairfax County is a dog-friendly county. However, it is important that we maintain wildlife-friendly areas. Many of the park visitors use the boardwalk for study, wildlife observation and nature photography. Dogs interfere with those activities. Huntley Meadows is a 1,500-acre park, and the wetland boardwalk is the only portion that is off-limits to pets. Park staff appreciate your help in maintaining a park with room for people, dogs and wildlife.
Fairfax Virtual Assistant