• Great Falls of the Potomac in summer

    Great Falls

    Park Virginia

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  • Trash Free Park

    Great Falls Park is now a trash free park. Trash cans have been removed. Please come prepared to carry your trash out with you. More »

  • River Safety

    Learn more about how to stay safe around the Potomac. The Potomac has dangerous currents and going into the river is not permitted. Swimming and wading could cost you your life. Stay safe. Stay out of the river. More »

Mammals

Beaver sitting by a rock

Beaver

National Park Service

The most commonly seen mammals in Great Falls Park are whitetail deer, Eastern chipmunks, and gray squirrels. Deer are the largest mammals found in the park, and typically give birth to one or two fawns in the spring. Does leave their fawns in one place while they go in search of food. If you find a fawn curled up in the woods, leave it in place, its mother will return for her baby.

Red foxes prefer to den on slopes or underneath trees in the woods. They eat a variety of foods, including mice, rabbits, birds, berries, and seeds. Pups are typically born in March or April.

Coyotes are also found in Great Falls Park. Encountering a coyote is an unlikely event, due to their shy, reclusive nature. Coyotes are known for adapting to live in many different environments and have even been seen in Rock Creek Park, located in Washington D.C.. They will eat small mammals, carrion, berries, vegetation, and sometimes birds. Coyotes help control prey populations, especially rats, which are a favorite meal. They are most active in the evening and at night. Because of that, interactions between coyotes and people are rare. Any sightings within Great Falls Park should be reported to park staff.


If you walk on the river trail above the falls, look for signs of beaver activity. Their diet in the winter consists of bark, and hikers can see the remains of trees that the beavers have felled. Beavers here live in dens they have dug into the riverbank, instead of dams.

Nocturnal residents include raccoons, skunks, and North America's only marsupial, the opossum. Bats are active at dusk, and can be observed near the picnic areas and parking lots as they hunt mosquitoes and other insects.

All wildlife is protected in the park. Observe animals from a distance, and do not feed or attempt to touch an animal. If you see an animal acting strangely, contact a park ranger.

 

What about bears?

One of the more frequently asked wildlife questions in the park is whether or not you can find bears here. Occasionally, bears will be spotted wandering into Fairfax County, usually while searching for food, new territory, or a mate. However, bears have not been observed living in Great Falls Park.

If you are visiting a park or an area that has bears, remember to keep your distance. Do not approach or feed any bear, especially a female with cubs.

Did You Know?

Pothole carved by the Potomac River

The round holes you see in the rocks along the River Trail were carved by the Potomac. Some of these potholes are large enough to stand in and can take over 500 years to form.