Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts


Well known for its magnificent Filene Center and world-renowned performances, Wolf Trap also provides a natural enclave in the midst of an increasingly urbanized northern Virginia. Less than half of Wolf Trap's land is developed, leaving about 65 acres of woodland, streams, and wetland with a wide variety of plants, animals, birds, and wildflowers. Wolf Trap's natural areas add critical green space in a dense suburb, provide refuges for many species, serve as a migration rest stop for wildlife, and serve as a living biology classroom to the adjacent community.

Basic biological information is lacking for Wolf Trap, as it is for many smaller parks in the National Park System. Efforts are now underway to determine exactly what plants and animals are currently present at Wolf Trap. This is being done through the National Park Service's agency-wide scientific database project, the Inventory and Monitoring Program. Over the next few years, Wolf Trap will be systematically surveyed for flora and fauna by professional scientists through this program. The survey data will provide the baseline information needed to develop strategies for managing the park's wildlife. Species lists included here are in various stages of updating and revision.

Rivers and Streams

Wolf Trap’s stream is a type C low gradient stream with meandering alluvial channels and broad, well defined floodplains. Heavy rain and runoff from neighboring housing subdivisions greatly augments the volume of the stream flowing through the park. Wolf Trap Run flows to the north from the south-east point of entry into the park. Halfway through its run, in the north-east section of the park it is joined by the Old Courthouse Branch Creek which flows into Wolf Trap Run. From this point it redirects to the west and exits the park from the park’s north-west boundary. Significant erosion of the stream bank has occurred in several distinct areas as a result of increased runoff and intermittent flooding. Several projects to plant riparian buffers to stabilize the creek banks have been completed, including placement of rip-rap along creek banks and tree planting in various locations. Erosion monitoring and control is an ongoing project within the park.

Geologic Formations

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts lies entirely within the Piedmont Province (plateau between the coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains). The Park’s elevation ranges from 250 to 350 feet above sea level. The highest hills are in the southeastern portion of the park and the lowest point in the floodplain in the northwest corner of the site.

Geological scoping sessions have not been completed for the park and there are no collections of paleontological material. The geology of the park offers essentially no potential for future discoveries of fossils.

The oldest formation underlying the Park is the Precambrian-Early Cambrian Peters Creek Schist. The Peters Creek Schist contains a variety of metamorphic rocks including metagraywackes and schists. Fossils are not typically found in metamorphic rocks and none are known from the Peters Creek Schist. The Peters Creek Schist is mapped as the Mather Gorge Formation within Great Falls Park (Southworth and others, 2000). Granodiorite is also mapped within the Park (Drake and Lee, 1989). Granodiorite is an intrusive (subsurface) igneous rock and as such does not preserve fossils. Much of the western portion of Wolf Trap is mapped as Quaternary (recent) Alluvium by Drake and Lee (1989). The sand, gravel, silt, and clay of this unit was deposited as floodplain and alluvial sediments during modern times. Fossils are not known from this unit and there is little potential for fossils because of its modern age.


Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is locally part of the Difficult Run Watershed. Old Courthouse Creek which flows into Wolftrap Creek both flow through the park and drain into Difficult Run. The Difficult Run Watershed covering 58.3 square miles is the largest watershed in Fairfax County, Virginia. Difficult Run in turn drains into the Potomac River linking us to the Potomac Watershed. The Potomac Watershed is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.