Back Bay / False Cape State Park - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Virginia Beach, VA
Submitted by: RTriebwasser
Back Bay is one of my favorite day trips but it can easily be expanded into a weekend trip or even longer as it borders False Cape State Park, which has primitive camping available. It can also be a wooooooooo mysterious place, so since it’s almost Halloween, let’s just roll with it shall we?
Putting in at either the ramp at the Game Warden headquarters or the Little Island City Park will require about a five mile paddle to get to False Cape State Park. If you head due east from the Game Warden ramp, stop on the way at “big” Cedar Island to check out the deserted house falling into ruins and the memorial (e.g. tombstone) erected to the three “fine old gentlemen” whom I presume used to live there. There is a nice landing beach right by the house. With a little exploring you will find some dilapidated sheds and even a water tower nearby. This is a very strange and isolated place to live, if you ask me. There is also apparently at least one (wild?) horse and dog on the island – I found fresh tracks in the sand plus other ‘evidence’. I circumnavigated the whole island trying to get a glimpse of them, but saw nothing but birds. This was in late March and the water was very cold, plus there is nowhere for any boat larger than a kayak or canoe to put in, so I don’t think anybody brought these animals there recently. Go figure. Headless rider perhaps? Spooky!
Heading straight east from Cedar Island you will find the False Cape Landing boat dock – a perfect tie-up for kayaks. There you will find a picnic table for lunch and you can make a short hike from there through some of the park campsites over to the Atlantic Ocean. The dunes along this beach are magnificent and well worth the short walk. They were ‘constructed’ back in the 1930’s and the whole area is now the most isolated and beautiful beach in Virginia. You are instructed to stay on designated paths so as not to cause undue erosion to the dune structure and damage to the vegetation. It’s hard to believe that you are only maybe twenty miles away from Virginia’s most crowded and commercialized beach - Virginia Beach.
If you veer southward from Cedar Island you will see some buildings – these are for the state park operations and programs. If you head there you will find the Wash Woods boat dock, also a great tie-up for kayaks. Here you can hike to the abandoned remains of Wash Woods (ghost town!). This was a small community that tried to make a go of it agriculturally, but would periodically get “washed over” with salt water due to various storms. All that’s left now is the remains of a church and graveyard. They say Spanish moss does not grow as far north as Virginia, but it grows here! Something about old ghost town graveyards and Spanish moss, very spooky!
Ok, if you are not totally creeped out by now, here are some basic hints and tips for the intrepid kayaker. Back Bay is very shallow, the deepest part not being much more than 6 feet, but it can get surprisingly rough when the wind is kicking up – this is not a flatwater paddle! Most of the area is either a wildlife refuge or waterfowl management area. This means that certain areas may be off limits and seasonal hunting is allowed. You will see strange looking clumps of vegetation – they are duck blinds and there will be duck hunters there certain times of the year - so steer clear! Be wary of the marsh areas – they are fun to explore, but get very shallow. Don’t attempt to get out of your boat here – I tried on what looked like solid ground, but immediately sank up to my thigh and decided to sit back down! Carry your own water – the state park does not have any drinking water, but there are outhouses there. Make sure you bring some line to tie up your kayak at the boat docks. A full day trip with time for hiking and lunch will take 6-7 hours. You cannot drive to False Cape State Park, you have to either hike, bike, or boat there which is why it is so isolated – it’s buggy in the summer, but very pleasant in the spring and fall. Don’t forget to bring a camera to photograph the spectacular dunes and any ghosts you may come across!
Little Island City Park has overnight parking only if you will be camping at False Cape State Park, otherwise both put-ins has regular daylight parking.
Camping fees for False Cape State Park must be reserved in advance through the Virginia State Parks system. There is no fee required for a daytime visit to the park.
There are at least two good put-ins: 1. Go south on Princess Anne Road (615)from Virginia Beach, then make a left onto Sandbridge Road. Stay on this road all the way to Sandbridge and then make a right onto Sandpiper road. This will take you all the way south to Little Island City Park. 2. Same as above but stay on Princess Anne past the small "towns" of Pungo, Back Bay and Creeds and make a left onto Back Bay Landing Road. This will take you to the Game Warden boat ramp.
Virginia State Parks has a nice web site with an online campsite reservation system. There are probably national wildlife refuge web sites as well.
GMCO Map - North Landing River/Back Bay. Excellent for getting around this area. Order phone number is 888-420-6277.
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