Shenandoah National Park: Graves Mill Trail – Rapidan River Shuttle Part 3

Continued from Part 2

My husband and I made slow progress along the trail, snapping pictures often. Thanks to our new tripod, he can take more stable long exposure photos of rivers and waterfalls.

Rapidan River

Rapidan River is a very popular location for fly fishing. We saw many people out and about fishing on this lovely spring day.

If you follow Graves Mill Trail to the end it connects with Rapidan Road, which leads all the way up to Camp Rapidan, the mountain retreat of President Herbert Hoover. It’s also possible to reach Camp Rapidan from Skyline Drive if you follow Mill Prong Trail. We did that loop trail before and it was a fun hike.

Small Periwinkle

Small Periwinkle, Common Periwinkle, Dwarf Periwinkle, Lesser Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle, or Vinca minor, is a member of the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae) and blooms April to May in woodland borders, roadsides, and abandoned sites. It was introduced to North America and has now escaped cultivation. It grows throughout eastern and central North America, as well as several places out west.

Pennsylvania Bittercress

Pennsylvania Bittercress, or Cardamine pensylvanica, is a member of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). It is a native wildflower that grows throughout North America.

At first I thought that this flower must be Little Western Bittercress (Cardamine oligosperma), but then when I looked at the USDA map of the distribution of the flower, it didn’t make sense. As the name says, it is mostly found on the west coast, but also in New York. Some more searching produced the right results!


Forsythia is a member of the Olive Family (Oleaceae) that blooms in early spring. Native to Europe and Asia, the shrub now grows along the east coast of North America and in scattered places in the west. Forsythia is used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve colds, allergies, and bronchitis. Apparently the flowers are edible and can be made into tea and syrup!

Forsythia bushes can be used in gardens for borders and hedges – my family used to have Forsythia growing around a tree in the front yard at our old house.

Bridal Wreath

Bridal Wreath, Bridal Wreath Spirea,  or Spiraea vanhouttei, is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae), and blooms in spring. It is actually an introduced cultivar – it was produced in cultivation through select breeding. It’s not a wildflower at all!

Probably because it is not a wildflower, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what it was. I looked in all the usual places – my books,, and In the end I was able to find out by inquiring at the Capital Naturalist Facebook Group. Thankfully, there are a lot of knowledgeable people there who kindly helped me to identify it!

Since both the Bridal Wreath and Forsythia are introduced plants, it made me wonder if maybe someone had planted them there by Rapidan River long ago.


We went up all the way to the Shenandoah National Park boundary and then back to the parking lot. At the park boundary it switches to the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area, where hunting is allowed. We sat on some rocks next to the river and had our PB&J sandwiches

The trip back was quick, as we had taken pictures of nearly everything we wanted to take pictures of already.

Although it’s an easy trail, it is pleasant to amble along Rapidan River and enjoy the variety of nature around.

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