The majority of the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area is wooded, primarily with hardwood species. These include many of the oaks, plus maple, hickory and gum. Some pure pine stands are found on the highest ground. Most of these stands occupy former farmland abandoned during the early thirties. Except for the low-ground along the James River, this is an area of low ridges and gentle slopes. Elevations range from 250 feet, at the confluence of the Hardware and James Rivers, to 450 feet on the highest ridge. Most of the area is well drained by two streams, the Hardware River and Dobby Creek. The low-lying areas along the flood plain of the James are always subject to flooding and on occasion are completely under water.
The area is open daily form dawn to dusk.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Hunting and fishing liscenses are required for participating in their respective activity.
Activities include accessing the James River by boat, hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Fishing for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and a variety of sunfish can be excellent from the banks of both the Hardware River and the James. As it flows pass the management area, the James River offers fast water and is best known to anglers for its smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish. The Hardware River is stocked three times per year under the Department's Delayed Harvest Regulations. Rainbow and brown trout are stocked from the beginning of October to May 31 in a 2.6 mile section of the river from Muleshoe Bend downstream to the Route 646 bridge crossing. Anglers fishing the Hardware within this section are required to have a trout license from October 1st - June 15th. No trout may be harvested, and only artificial lures may be used from October 1st - May 31st. After May 31st, trout may be creeled according to state regulations.
Hunters will find ample opportunity to pursue deer and turkeys throughout the area. Populations are stable and hunters will find a diversity of habitat types to hunt ranging from low-lying bottomlands to upland hardwoods. Hunting in the uplands is also excellent for squirrels during most years and hunters searching for woodcock may find exciting results along the James and Hardware. Small game hunters will find ample hunting space for quail and rabbits along the James River bottomland and timber harvest sites throughout the area. The easy access to the James River provides good opportunity to hunt waterfowl.
Wildlife viewers will find ample viewing opportunities throughout the management area. Deer and turkey can be observed along the edges of numerous openings throughout the area. Both woodland and early successional bird species are common. Water birds are observed regularly along the James and Hardware Rivers and Canada geese can be observed as they move up and down the James throughout the year.
A concrete boat ramp provides small boat and canoe access to the James River just upstream from the mouth of the Hardware. There is ample room for parking near the boat ramp, and other parking areas are located for access to the upland.
Dogs must be leashed at all times outside of open hunting, chase, or training seasons.