Chesterfield State Forest

Overview

Chesterfield State Forest encompasses 439.5 acres of mostly loblolly pine forest in Chesterfield County. It is managed for multiple uses, including timber, passive recreation, demonstration of forestry practices, watershed health, and biological diversity.

The forest features nearly a mile of waterfront boundary on Rita Branch and approximately ¼ mile on Second Branch.

The property is home to the Howlett family cemetery, with graves dating back to the early 1800s.

×To ensure your safety and enjoyment, please read Before You Visit when planning your trip to a state forest.

At a Glance

Access Status: Open to the Public
Hours: Open daily from dawn until dusk

Physical Address:
Latitude/Longitude:
37° 18’ 12.6”, 77° 32’ 00.2 ”

Parking/Access: Access with a very small parking area is from Cattail Road ¼ mile south of Reedy Branch Road. Access without parking is also found at the intersection of Cattail Road and Reedy Branch Road

Restroom Facilities: None

Visitors are asked to adopt a “leave-no-trace” ethic when visiting the forest, as there are no restrooms or trash cans on the forest itself. ​ ​

Other Facilities: None
Seasonal Closures: None

 

Forest History

Chesterfield State Forest was established in 2012. The land comprising Chesterfield State Forest was deeded to VDOF in 2012 by Mr. David W. Fairweather of Fairweather Investments, LLC. The 439.5-acre tract of land was gifted without deed restrictions on its use. The land was part of a larger 1,430-acre property that was planned for residential development and known conceptually as the “Nash Road Development.” The VDOF accepted the gift with a non-binding understanding that the remainder of the 1,430 property was likely to be given to the agency in subsequent years. The total property formerly had a real estate development plan for 715 dwelling units.

The trees on the property had been nearly completely harvested in the mid-1990s by a former private landowner, and only portions of it were reforested with loblolly pine. The rest had adequate natural regeneration to satisfy the Pine Seed Tree Law, and there was little or no subsequent forest management work done on the property.

The stream along the west side of the property is identified as “Rita Branch” on USGS topographic maps, but was formerly called Reedy Branch. This accounts for the name of Reedy Branch Road, which enters the property from both the east and the west. An 1888 map shows that Reedy Branch Road, at that time, traversed through the property. Today, a forest road still connects Cattail Road and Nash (also known as Reedy Branch) Road; however, the stream crossing across Rita Branch no longer exists.

A significant cemetery on the property serves as the final resting place for a number of people with the surname “Howlett,” a common name in Chesterfield County in the early 1800s. This property can be traced back to James Howlett, who may have acquired the property as early as the late 1700s. The cemetery was in a state of disarray when VDOF acquired the property and has since been modestly restored. Some documents found at the Chesterfield Historical Society suggest that the home site may have been located between the cemetery and the forest road immediately to the north.

Historical Landmarks

The property is home to the Howlett family cemetery. This is the final resting place for James Howlett (1772-1838) and his wife, Lucy Mann Howlett (1776-1815) and much of their immediate family and the family spouses. There are nine visible headstones on the site and the crumbling remains of a wrought iron fence.

Forest Management

Forest management focuses on the demonstration of scientific forest management, applied forest research, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, biological diversity, and passive outdoor recreation.

Nearly all the timber was harvested from this property in the late 1990s, well before its designation as a state forest. Currently, 94% of the total land area is forested with loblolly pine plantations. This is typical of eastern Virginia forests with a history of forest industry ownership.

Recreational Opportunities

Recreational uses of the Chesterfield State Forest include hiking, biking, and wildlife watching.

Visitors are asked to adopt a “leave-no-trace” ethic when visiting the forest, as there are no restrooms or trash cans on the forest itself.

ATV/ORV use, camping, and swimming are prohibited on all State Forests.

A State Forest Use Permit* is required for individuals aged 16 and older to hunt, fish, trap, horseback ride, or mountain bike on state forest lands. The permit can be purchased online at or where hunting licenses are sold.

Trails and Roads

3 miles of gated forest roads – no vehicles

Hiking

Hiking is permitted on forest roads.

Mountain Biking

None

Horseback Riding

None

Fishing and Boating

None

Hunting and Trapping

None

Other Recreational Opportunities

Other passive recreational opportunities, such as wildlife watching and nature photography, are available.

Educational Opportunities

Self-learning opportunities are available.

Contact Us

For more information or questions about state forests, email us or use our contact form.

State Forest Main Office
Located at Cumberland State Forest
751 Oak Hill Road, Cumberland, VA 23040-2511
Email | (804) 492-4121

Local Contact
Dennis Gaston, Forester
11301 Pocahontas Trail, Providence Forge, VA 23140
Email | (804) 966-2201

Maps and Additional Resources
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