The profound beauty of the Northern Neck is here to be enjoyed. People who enjoy our waterways in a responsible way tend to protect it. In our responsibility of handing down our treasure to the next generation, we must make sure that all our residents and guests have access to the water, as well as an understanding of responsible stewardship.
NAPS promotes preservation of natural areas. and helps to open up and maintain water access for all residents and guests.
The Northern Neck has been a secret haven, untouched by major tourism, and most of us like it that way. However, public access to water must be maintained to allow everyone to enjoy the waterfront, whether inland residents or guests. Eco-tourism has a very low impact on the environment while providing new income sources for county businesses and tax base. NAPS has published a Paddler's Guide, covering most of Northumberland County rivers and creeks. The free Master Map tri-fold is available at the library and other locations, and the Detail Maps, along with the Master Map, are available as a free downoad...just follow this link.
Northumberland County has three Natural Area Preserves - Bush Mill Stream, Dameron Marsh and Hughlett Point, administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Public access is provided for passive recreation, education and nature study, but these areas are not intended for active recreational purposes. Their purpose is to protect "habitat of rare, threatened or endangered plant and animal species, rare or state significant natural communities or geologic sites, and similar features of scientific interest benefiting the welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth.” No sanitary facilities or trash receptacles exist, and vehicles, bicycles, horseback riding and unrestrained pets are prohibited. More information about these unique areas can be found at: www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/natural_area_preserves/index.shtml.
Bush Mill Stream, located near the headwaters of the Great Wicomico River off VA 642, incorporates 103 acres of upland forests and wetlands. A Great Blue Heron rookery occupies the treetops in the swamp west of the Preserve. The property was acquired through Henry Bashore’s persistent efforts over a two-year period.
Dameron Marsh off VA 605 (take VA 606 à VA 693) extends into Chesapeake Bay, forming the southern margin of Ingram Bay. It is the largest wetland on the western side of Chesapeake Bay, but unfortunately it suffers from extremely severe erosion. Hughlett Point is located on Chesapeake Bay at the south end of VA 605, and contains 204 acres of wetlands, beaches, dunes and upland forest communities. It is home to a federally protected insect species, the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, and provides important habitat for waterfowl, songbirds and birds of prey.
A fourth area, Kohl’s Island, which incorporates Smith Point itself and a beach to the west of where the Potomac River empties into Chesapeake Bay, is owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. It is also home to the endangered Tiger Beetle. The old entrance to the Little Wicomico River off the Potomac River, which once bordered the western end of the “island,” has been built-up by the Corps of Engineers using dredge spoil from the present navigation channel. Planted with grass, it is hoped the connection to the “mainland” will now be permanent. No public access by land exists, or is planned, and access can only be gained by boat.
The public Vir-Mar beach on the Potomac River near Ophelia, can be accessed off VA 644 and VA 800.
These areas are all major assets for the County. It is up to us to help monitor and maintain the three Natural Heritage Preserves in accord with DCR’s mandate. If you would like to help the people who currently monitor Hughlett Point and Dameron Marsh, please contact Sib or Jane Towner at 435-3566 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in monitoring Bush Mill Stream, please contact Mary or Porter Kier at 529-6494 or email@example.com. Guided tours to Dameron Marsh are available for groups, and tours in spring and fall are announced in local newspapers. If you want to become a guide, contact Audrey Brainard at 580-5519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.