Exploring Nature on the Virginia Eastern Shore
The Eastern Shore of Virginia (ESVA) is a nature lover’s paradise. Between the Eastern Shore of Virginia Wildlife Refuge to the south, up to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to the north, you could spend a lifetime exploring and still not see everything. Here is a bit of information to get you started your ESVA adventure!
Eastern Shore of Virginia Wildlife Refuge
Located at the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, this 1,123 acre area is one of the most important bird migration funnels in North America. This narrowing peninsula created by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean causes a funneling effect on the birds as they fly south. Each fall, favorable weather patterns push migrating species through the area, including songbirds, raptors, tree swallows, and monarch butterflies. Approximately 406 species of birds have been found in and around the refuge (a complete list is available on the refuge web site).
Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State Park is 3 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on the bayside of the Eastern Shore. The park is 562 acres and includes cabins, RV and tent camping, a public boat ramp, lighted fishing pier, over 5 miles of hiking and biking trails, a kid’s playground, and a beach with bathhouse. It’s also a great place to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway.
Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve
Located just 12 miles from Cape Charles, VA, this 298 acre preserve contains outstanding Chesapeake Bay beach, dune, and maritime forest communities, migratory songbird habitat, and a population of northeastern beach tiger beetles. There are three marked hiking trails with interpretive signage along the way. The preserve’s most striking physical feature is a well-developed system of sand dunes that tower as high as 50 feet above the bay.
Brownsville Preserve: The Nature Conservancy
There are a lot of fun things to do at the 1,250 acre Brownsville Preserve, like birding, biking, walking nature trails, taking nature photography and geocaching. The William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail offers a round-trip hike of three miles through memorable coastal Virginia scenery. Brownsville Preserve is located in Nassawaddox, VA, approximately 28 miles from the southern end of the Eastern Shore. You may also wish to combine your visit to Brownsville with other Eastern Shore sites on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail – https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/vbwt/loop.asp
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1943, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is located at the far north end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Including more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest, the refuge provides habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and song birds, as well as other species of wildlife and plants. The refuge also provides wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting, wildlife photography and observation, interpretation and environmental education. You also may have heard of the Chincoteague Ponies from the “Misty” Newbery Honor Book and film. You can learn more by visiting https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Chincoteague/wildlife_and_habitat/ponies.html
Virginia’s Barrier Islands
There are 14 uninhabited barrier islands off the 70 mile coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. They comprise the largest stretch of coastal wilderness left on the eastern seaboard of the United States, and have been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site of International Importance. There is no road or bridge to these wild islands and it is recommended that visitors take a guided kayak or boat tour for a visit. Another great way to learn about the Virginia barrier islands is to spend time at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Barrier Islands Center in Machipongo (https://www.barrierislandscenter.org/).
Have a great time exploring the Eastern Shore’s beautiful nature!