Pleasant Grove: A Gem On The Rivanna

Nestled beside the Rivanna River in Fluvanna County, the 900-acre Pleasant Grove Park is an outdoor adventure with something for everyone to enjoy.

Walk the Heritage Trail to the river, enjoy the 20+ miles of multi-use single-track trails, and explore every type of habitat found in the Piedmont area, bustling with all types of flora and fauna. Or just come out to relax and enjoy the natural habitat or bird watching.

For fun in the sun, check out the park’s riverfront beach! Whether you lounge in the sand, or go for a dip in the river, you’ll find this quiet haven a little slice of paradise. Or rent a kayak from Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation, whose kayak livery is at the Pleasant Grove House, so you can enjoy the newly renovated Palmyra Boat landing and explore the river.

For animal lovers, there is plenty of native wildlife to view from the many walking trails, including quail, river otters, and turkeys. You can even bring your horse for a leisurely stroll through the forest, where you’ll see native plants and wildflowers. You might even find yourself learning something new, like the names of various Virginia-native trees along the tree identification trail! Pleasant Grove also features a dog park with designated space for large and small dogs.

Looking for something to get you moving? Check out the park’s 18-hole disc golf course! Located between the playground and baseball fields, people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy this fun twist on traditional golf. The course is free, so you just need to bring your own disc or Frisbee. If you’d prefer a more solitary activity, you can use the workout equipment on the fitness trail, such as the parallel bars for hand walking and body dips.

The park also has a softball, baseball and three (3) multi-use fields, e.g. soccer, lacrosse, football and ultimate Frisbee, which are open to the public when not scheduled for league use.

A 30’ x 100’ Pole Barn and several smaller pavilions are available for picnics, special events and group outings, call (434) 589-2016 for more information and reservations.

The Pleasant Grove House Museum complex

For history buffs, the Pleasant Grove House, the Summer Kitchen and the Farm Heritage Museums provide a peek into Fluvanna’s past. Associated with founding families of Fluvanna County, Pleasant Grove is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This house-turned-museum features exhibits related to the history of Fluvanna’s river transportation and how it enabled the movement of agricultural production further west.

William D. Haden built the Pleasant Grove House, just west of the village of Palmyra, in 1854. His family first settled in Fluvanna County in 1745 and Pleasant Grove was home to generations of Haden’s. Haden constructed the two-story brick house with an English basement, when the Greek Revival was in full swing, but the imposing structure is unusually conservative in its architectural detailing and seems to mimic the building practices of at least a quarter century before. These features include a mousetooth cornice, architrave moldings, and a delicate stair with paneled spandrel.

The Summer Kitchen with its robust chimney and worn siding, albeit much patched through the years, is a picturesque specimen, all the more so thanks to a simple delicate colonnade connecting it to the main house. A simple frame smokehouse is the only other outbuilding. Although the Pleasant Grove House is like many other contemporary houses in Virginia in plan, its place in the County’s agrarian landscape and its role in the County’s social and economic history are significant. The Haden family cemetery is also located there.

Visit the “River Room” in the Pleasant Grove House Museum to learn the history of the Rivanna River, the Rivanna Navigation Company and how it connected Charlottesville and Palmyra to Richmond via the James River and Kanawha Canal.

Explore the “Train Room” and learn how the canals right-of-way was bought and the canal was largely dismantled by the new Richmond and Allegheny Railroad. Ultimately, the towpath became the roadbed for the rail line following the same course.

Take time to also visit the Fluvanna Farm Heritage Museum, opened to the public in 2018. This Museum is a joint project of Fluvanna County and the Fluvanna Historical Society, and is filled with antique farm equipment from the collection of John May, as well as pieces from other Fluvanna collectors.

Tour the 1854 home, the Summer Kitchen and the Farm Heritage Museum: Self-guided tours start at the Pleasant Grove House, Monday thru Friday 8am – 5pm. Guided tours on Saturday and Sunday 9am – 5pm. Please call (434) 589-2016 to arrange for group tours, field trips or private tours during the week.

There’s no shortage of fun things to do at Pleasant Grove, from experiencing nature to exploring Virginian history. With so many activities, it’s truly a destination you have to see for yourself.

Pleasant Grove House, Summer Kitchen & Farm Heritage Museum, 271 Pleasant Grove Drive, Palmyra, VA 22963

Rail Trail