The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Ragged Island WMA includes 1,537 acres of open pine forest, sandy beaches, and saltwater marshes, much of which is not readily accessible. From the main parking lot, there is a short path to a beach bordering the James River. A second, longer trail passes by open stands of pine trees and reaches a boardwalk that continues across a saltmarsh to a platform overlooking the river. From the marsh boardwalk, killifishes, fiddler and blue crabs, and marsh songbirds can be seen. Depending on the season, the platform overlooking the river can provide views of gulls, bald eagle, terns, loons, and waterfowl including all three species of scoters. During migration, the pine trees near the parking lot are likely to produce any of the more than 30 species of warblers known to inhabit the WMA, as well as orioles, tanagers and other songbirds. Despite its saltiness, a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians are denizens of this site, including northern diamondback terrapin and eastern mud turtle. The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is occasionally seen in the James River, which visitors can watch for as they scan from the platform for dolphins and other marine life.
- To Access the Site: A Restore the Wild Membership, Virginia hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.
- Hunting could be occurring at this site April 1 – May 31 and September 1 – February 28th, except on Sundays. If you are visiting this site during hunting seasons, please wear blaze orange or blaze pink for safety.
From I-64 in Newport News, take Exit #263 for US 258/Mercury Boulevard South. Follow this road to its intersection with US 17 South, then follow US 17/US 258 across the James River Bridge. After crossing the bridge, take the first exit to the left and enter the parking lot of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area.
- Site Contact: VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries, Region 1 Office: 804-829-6580, BirdingTrail@dgif.virginia.gov
- Season: All
- Access: Daily. Restore the Wild Membership, hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.
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