Scott's Run Nature Preserve is part of the Potomac Gorge. This is one of the rarest biological ecosystems in the mid-Atlantic. Floodplains, rocky cliffs, and narrow valleys were carved by the erosive forces of the Potomac River. This dynamic union of rocks and river, home to many unusual plants and animals, also creates quick, dangerous currents and underwater hazards. The appearance of the creek and the river can be deceptive. Scott's Run flows into the Potomac River, and rapidly-rising water creates dangerous situations.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is one of only a few nature preserves in the Fairfax County Park Authority system. It is a remarkable place of rare plants and splendid beauty, yet that beauty is challenged by urban pollution and human destruction. It is a classic clash of suburban sprawl and natural areas.
Visitors have flocked to Scott’s Run for years to witness the spring wildflowers that carpet the forest floor. Trailing arbutus, Virginia bluebells and sessile trillium bloom on steep hillsides and create a small oasis of rare, fragile plants. Remarkable and rare species grow along precipitous cliffs, in steep valleys, and throughout a mature, hardwood forest that is comprised of large oak and beech trees, ancient hemlock and wild cherry trees that stand as tall as the oaks.
A grove of ancient hemlocks, whose ancestors migrated here during the last ice age, stands in the nature preserve as a reminder that this region once had a subarctic climate. The park's southern boundary is a major fault zone, a relict geologic feature from a distant past some 520 to 570 million years ago when the rocks were created out of slabs of ocean floor pushed up onto this continent.
There are informational signs at the park’s entrance and some directional signs at select locations along the trails. There are no other facilities of any other kind in the park.
The Potomac Heritage Trail Association maintains some of the trails at the park, in particular the section that corresponds with the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. The Nature Conservancy has conducted volunteer group activities to combat invasive plants. A dedicated group of Weed Warriors for many years has consistently fought the park’s invasive plants, and Boy Scouts have conducted Eagle Scout projects at the park. The Park Authority occasionally holds volunteer events at Scott’s Run. Information about volunteer programs at Scott’s Run is available through the Park Authority’s volunteer page or by calling Riverbend Park at 703-759-9018.