Within a few miles of one of Virginia’s busiest and most populated regions is the Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area, a largely unspoiled area of marshland and scattered woody hummocks. Here, taking the opportunity to hunt, fish or view wildlife and wetland habitats makes the noisy activity of the Hampton Roads region seem distant.
The Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area consists of 1,537 acres of brackish marsh and small pine islands along the south side of the lower James River. The major marsh vegetation on the area is marsh mallow, smartweed, saltmarsh cordgrass and black needlerush. The primary tree species is loblolly pine. Wax myrtle, often entangled with greenbrier, make parts of the area impenetrable. There are three major creeks on or bordering the area, and a number of small waterways and several ponds, both brackish and freshwater. Much of the area is subject to tidal flooding.
There is the opportunity to hunt deer in the pine islands and other high ground. Other upland game animals on the area are raccoon, rabbit, fox and squirrel. Waterfowl are hunted by jump shooting the ponds and creeks, and from licensed blinds on the wider creeks or the James River. Black ducks, mallards, scaup, gadwall, ruddy ducks, buffleheads and goldeneyes often use the area. Clapper rails can be found in the marshes.
As per 4VAC15-270-60. Use of Firearms Loaded with Slugs and Discharge of Firearms Near Boardwalk or Nature Trail on Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area.
A. It shall be unlawful to possess outside of a vehicle, or shoot or hunt with a rifle, muzzleloader, pistol or shotgun loaded with slugs, or to possess shotgun slugs, on Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area in Isle of Wight County. In addition, it shall be unlawful to discharge any firearm within 100 yards of the boardwalk or nature trail on Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area.
Mostly saltwater species are caught here on the James, including bluefish, gray trout, spot, croaker, flounder and striped bass. White perch and channel catfish can be caught in the fresh water creeks.
The area has interpretive signs and trails, and has been designated a Watchable Wildlife Area. The boardwalk gives birdwatchers, hikers and photographers some unique opportunities. A public fishing pier is located at the north end of the James River Bridge.
There are two parking lots, both entered from U.S. highway 17. A boardwalk, viewing platform and trail, financed through the Non-game Wildlife and Endangered Species Program, allows easy walking access for viewing the marsh.
The area is bisected by U. S. Routes 17 and 258, and State Route 32, southwest of Newport News and Hampton at the southern end of the James River Bridge. Consult map for detail.
Images by: Meghan Marchetti - DGIF