Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

Site Information

  • Seasons: All
  • Site Contact: (804) 684-7119
  • Site Access: Free, Daily,
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Environmental Study Area Parking Site is only viewable by boat

Site CLP06: Goodwin Islands, National Estuarine Research Reserve


This Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia is located in the mouth of the York River on the extreme northeast point of York County. It is accessible only by boat and once at the island, paddle around or moor your boat and wade ashore. Access may be limited due to ongoing research and waterfowl hunting seasons. Visitors should check the web site before visiting this site. The Goodwin Islands are characterized by a range of marsh-island habitat types and the biological communities often associated with them. The northern side of the main island features a prominent beach, but most of the complex is extensive marsh. The low marsh is dominated by saltmarsh cordgrass and saltmeadow hay. The forested wetland ridges on the main island are dominated by estuarine shrub-scrub wetlands with a loblolly pine overstory. Wax myrtle is the dominant shrub. The upland ridge is vegetated by red oak, loblolly pine, cottonwood and black gum. Submerged aquatic vegetation primarily eelgrass and widgeon grass covers 300 acres of offshore river bottom. Tidal sand flats around the Goodwin Islands are regularly exposed at low tide. The areas are nursery, spawning and foraging habitats for many finfish, birds and other animals.


From Yorktown National Battlefield, return to US 17/George Washington Memorial Highway South. Follow US 17 to SR 173 and turn left onto Goodwin Neck Road/SR 173 across from Denbigh Boulevard. Follow Goodwin Neck Road/SR 173 for 3.5 miles. Back Creek Park will be on your right. Site viewable only by boat.

Loop Map