Master Gardeners: Eastern Shore’s Natural Area Preserves

July 13, 2021

This is Steve Rulison bringing you information on Shore friendly living and gardening from the Eastern Shore Master Gardeners and Virginia Cooperative Extension.  From my perch near the mouth of Occohannock Creek, I recorded 1.6 inches of rain last week.

This week we are going to talk about the Eastern Shore’s Natural Area Preserves.

Natural Area Preserves, or NAPs, harbor many of Virginia’s exemplary natural communities and rare species habitats and provide visitors unique outdoor experiences. Here on the Eastern Shore, there are four Natural Area Preserves with public access – Savage Neck Dunes, Cape Charles, Magothy Bay, and Mutton Hunk.  These preserves are available for those who are looking for a quiet and relaxing time away from crowds. 

Savage Neck Dunes NAP features diverse coastal natural communities including Chesapeake Bay beach, maritime grasslands, a rare maritime dune woodland, maritime forest, and a natural freshwater pond.  Cape Charles NAP provides important resting and feeding habitat for songbirds during migration. The sandy shoreline is home to the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle.  Magothy Bay NAP is made up of woodlands, forested wetlands and an extensive salt marsh. Mutton Hunk NAP encompasses restored upland migratory songbird habitat, maritime forest, salt marshes, a remnant Carolina bay, and a rare sea-level fen community.

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Visitors are welcome to walk the trails, take photos, and observe wildlife. You will notice that parking areas are small – usually from four to 20 spaces.  A full parking lot indicates that the preserve has reached capacity. If you find the lot full, please return at another time. Read and obey posted signs.  There are no public restrooms or trash bins, so please help us keep the areas clean and natural.  And, if you visit, please remember to follow current COVID guidelines when encountering other visitors on the trails.

Stewards monitor the NAPs regularly to keep the areas clean, report any concerns, and assist Department of Conservation Recreation in tasks such as planting trees and shrubs in newly purchased areas, to restore habitat.

If you would like more information about these Natural Area Preserves, including directions to the preserves, visit; and,  as always, for answers to Gardening questions and more, call your local Accomack or Northampton County Extension Office. Here on the Shore call either 678-7946 or 787-1361.

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