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Nature's Bounty Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area
The Ragged Island boardwalk
The Ragged Island boardwalk © Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

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.

Another view of the Ragged Island boardwalk
Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area is a largely unspoiled area of marshland and scattered woody hummocks

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Ragged Island WMA consists of 1,537 acres of open pine forest, sandy beaches, and saltwater marshes–much of which is not readily accessible. 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, makes 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.

From the parking lot, there is a short trail to a beach bordering the James River. A second trail passes by open stands of pine trees and reaches a boardwalk that continues across a saltmarsh to a platform overlooking the river. From the marsh boardwalk, killifishes, fiddler and blue crabs, and marsh songbirds can be seen. Depending on the season, the platform overlooking the river can provide views of gulls, bald eagle, terns, loons, and waterfowl including all three species of scoters. During migration, the pine trees near the parking lot are likely to be inhabited by any of the more than 30 species of warblers known to inhabit the WMA, as well as orioles, tanagers and other songbirds. Despite its saltiness, a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians are denizens of this site, including northern diamondback terrapin and eastern mud turtle. The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is occasionally seen in the James River, which visitors can watch for as they scan from the platform for dolphins and other marine life.

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.

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 US17. A boardwalk, viewing platform and trail, financed through the Non-game Wildlife and Endangered Species Program, allows easy walking access for viewing the marsh.


By Vince on 09-20-14:
"Can you hunt with shotgun or rifle on this WMA?"