Free School Marsh & Michael Marsh Tracts, Saxis Wildlife Management Area


This 5,678 acre Wildlife Management Area (WMA), owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, remains one of the regions most pristine marshlands. It is divided into three tracts: Free School Marsh, Michael Marsh, and Guard Shore. All three tracts are peninsulas, bordered by the brackish waters of Beasley Bay, Pocomoke Sound or Messongo Creek, or several smaller fresh water creeks. Forested high ground, or hummocks, occupy portions of the area farthest inland. Maintained primarily in its natural state, there is little in the way of active management or development on the area.

Birding and wildlife viewing access at this WMA is largely limited to viewing by boat. There are several public launch ramps available near the WMA. For a map of boating access near and around Saxis WMA, please visit the Saxis WMA webpage where a map and more information is available.

Additional viewing opportunity is from State Route 695/ Saxis Rd, which does bisect a large portion of the Free School Marsh Tract, however there are limited opportunities to pull-off and view from this road.

Saxis Fishing Pier, which is over open deeper water, may offer opportunities to see ducks, grebes, loons, and migrating gulls.

Tract Descriptions:

Free School Marsh, the large northernmost tract of the WMA, is prime habitat for seaside sparrow and marsh wren. Boat-tailed grackles also utilize the site and can be seen displaying from posts, while orchard orioles sing in the scattered trees. Countless fiddler crabs occur in the sloughs that transect the marsh, providing food for large wading birds such as little blue heron and great egret.

Michael Marsh, the large central tract of the WMA, is managed for waterfowl and is a black duck breeding and wintering ground. A variety of other birds also take advantage of the excellent habitat. Rough-legged hawk and short-eared owl visit the site in the winter, as well as grebes, loons, and migrating gulls such as Bonaparte’s.

Guard Shore is the smaller southernmost tract of Saxis WMA. For more information on this tract click here.


  • 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.


Physical Location of Hammock Boat Ramp: Hammock Rd, Saxis, VA 23427

To Hammock Boat Ramp, from US-13 in Temperanceville: Take Rt 695/ Saxis Rd west for 8.6 miles, then turn left onto Hammock Rd and continue 0.8 miles towards the Hammock Boat Ramp.

To Hammock Boat Ramp, from the Previous Site on the Eastern Shore Loop of VBWT:

From the Guard Shore Tract of Saxis WMA, return to the intersection of Rt 684 and Rt 779 near Bloxom. Turn left onto Rt 779 and proceed 3.2 miles north. Turn left onto Rt 692/Main St. Continue on Rt. 692 for 5.6 miles (Main St becomes Savannah Rd). Stay on Rt 692 as it turns right becoming Marsh Market Rd, then turn left on Rt 692, which becomes Belinda Rd. Turn left on Rt 695 and travel 0.6 miles. Turn left onto Rt 788/Hammock Rd and continue towards the Hammock Boat Ramp.