The vegetation of Virginia today is much different from what was found in pre-settlement times. While Virginia's landscape had been mostly forested, there were once open areas where trees were few or sometimes absent. These sites were too wet, or too dry, or too steep and rocky to support forest growth. Sometimes tree growth was modulated by natural or anthropogenic fires. The Difficult Creek Natural Area Preserve in Halifax County was once a prairie savanna with a rich herbaceous community and a canopy of scattered pines and hardwoods. Fire very probably played a role in maintaining this savanna ecosystem.
The significance of this 818-acre preserve was first noted by botanists who discovered several rare plants growing along a roadside and beneath a wide powerline clearing near Difficult Creek. Those open areas had become became a refuge for the sun-loving prairie grasses and forbs which had been displaced by loblolly pine stands planted in recent times. These rare plants, which are unusual for the Piedmont, are also a reflection of the basic, clay rich soils present in the area. Difficult Creek Natural Area Preserve is now managed with prescribed fire and mechanical thinning to restore the historic savanna ecosystem and its constituent rare species.
This preserve is open for public visitation. Vehicular access restricted to State Secondary Route 719; foot travel is welcome on fire lanes within the Preserve. Over two miles of hiking can be had on the fire access lanes within the preserve.
Part or all of the preserve may be periodically closed for resource protection or prescribed burning activities. Please call before visiting.