Virginia Coast Reserve - By: Helen Woods, SeaRey Pilot (5/28/13)
What a glorious day to be a pilot! I finally got a chance to squeeze my Sasquatch of a boyfriend into the SeaRey and was pleasantly surprised that not only did he fit but he said it was the most comfortable LSA to date that I've folded him into! We decided to do the proper American thing for Memorial day and hit the beach (sans crowds of course) so we flew down to the Virginia Coast Reserve, a series of barrier islands largely owned by the Nature Conservancy most of which are open to the public.
For anyone that hasn't been down that way, it is beautiful and the closest thing to wilderness that we have in this area. There are ruins of old life saving stations on the islands and some still have watch towers from WWII, but by in large, nature has reclaimed these islands and you can experience first hand what a truly wild beach is. Its easy to see on these low lying, wind swept spits of sand why the Wright Brothers chose such a location for their work.
The ends of the islands are sandy so we selected a marsh gut in one of these sandy areas to put down. When then taxied over to our beach of choice, put the wheels down, taxied up and spread out our beach blankets for some quality time on the beach together, watching the waves lap, and endangered oyster catchers and black skimmers that make these island home, fly by.
After lunch we walked the island, watched a pod of dolphins working a school of fish in the inlet, collected a few shells, and helped a few stranded whelks and sand dollars back into the water. We then departed the island flying south to the tip of the Shore, spotting more WWII watch towers, the remnants of the gun batteries that once protected the Chesapeake Bay from German attack, and the concrete ships, sunk to protect the old ferry landing from the abuse of winter winds and waves on the Bay. We were treated to the sight of more dolphins and hundreds if not thousands of cow nosed rays spawning along the shoreline of the Bay.
For those going, a couple of notes. First not all of the islands are open to the public. I'm attaching a map. With the exception of Parramore, Revel, and Ship Shoal the islands owned by the Nature Conservancy are open. You do need to stay clear of areas marked off for bird nesting as they have quite a few endangered species out there. See current visitation rules.
The tides down that way are strong. There's about a 4 foot tidal amplitude with associated strong currents so keep that in mind both when parking and when selecting a landing spot.