Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established on June 6, 1938 as a 4,589-acre refuge to provide feeding and resting habitat for migratory birds. It is a critical segment in the Atlantic Flyway. As the metropolitan area of Virginia Beach began to grow in the 1980's, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursued a land acquisition program to double the size of Back Bay NWR in order to protect the watershed from harmful development. Since 1988 the Refuge has grown to over 9,250 acres, protecting critical habitat for wildlife, which years ago had been zoned for residential and commercial use. The Friends of Back Bay was instrumental in gaining approval for the expansion and obtaining $24 million of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase land from willing sellers within the acquisition boundary. The expansion provided a buffer against development, thus reducing erosion and runoff of fertilizers and chemicals that pollute Back Bay. As a result water quality has improved, there has been a marked increase in the amount of submerged aquatic vegetation and the numbers of ducks, geese and other waterbirds have increased. Back Bay NWR includes a thin strip of barrier island coastline typical of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as upland areas on the west bank of Back Bay. Habitats include beach, dunes, woodlands, agricultural fields, and emergent freshwater marshes. The majority of refuge marshes are on islands within the waters of Back Bay. Thousands of tundra swans, snow and Canada geese and a large variety of ducks visit the refuge during the fall/winter migration. Refuge waterfowl populations usually peak during December and January. The refuge also provides habitat for other wildlife, including such threatened and endangered species as the loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover and recently recovered species like the brown pelican and bald eagle. Back Bay NWR provides over eight miles of scenic trails, a visitor contact station, interpretive programming and, with advance scheduling, group educational opportunities. We are located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, immediately south of Sandbridge beach at the southern end of Sandpiper Road. Outdoor facilities are open daily dawn to dusk. The Visitor Contact Station hours are 8:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. weekdays, 9:00 AM - 4:00 P.M. weekends. The Visitor Contact Station is closed on Sundays, November through March and closed holidays, except Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. The refuge is open during daylight hours only (1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset). Entry after sunset is prohibited.
Nychelle J. on Lotus Pond
Beautiful and calm place to Kayak. With all of the fish jumping, it would have been a great place to throw a line in too.
Putting in at Lotus Garden Park will start you out in the middle of a thick grove of lotus in all but the coldest winter months. Take care not to damage the lotus pad and blossoms (April) which are very thick at first but will thin out about 100 yards south of the put in. From there you'll meander through a section of the National Wildlife Refuge - Back Bay area for a few miles. Some of the side feeders are fun to detour along the way and the area is packed with water fowl and other wetlands creatures. A short section of Back Bay is next which can be a bit of a tough paddle in high (>10mph) winds so check your weather. Then back up eastern side canal which passes a large RV park before paddling under Sandbridge Road. The northern tip of this loop is at Hells Point Golf Club, so when you see greens, look for the connector on your right. The last section is a bit narrower with overhanging trees. The take-out is at Sandbridge Road again is very muddy without much room for more than a boat or two. You'll have to portage across busy Sandbridge Road to get back to Lotus Garden Park. I give this 5 stars because it it one of the rare loop paddles you will find in the area.
It is an interesting loop through the protected and fragile dune environment. It is part of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. You are not allowed to leave the boardwalks to and from the beach, then you can hike down the beach to the other boardwalk. The fourth side is a road that only the Fed's and park rangers from False Cape State Park can drive on. it. Besides plants, sand dunes and ocean, I saw a little round fury animal that was too camera shy to wait around for me to get the camera out.