Bay Journal

Leslie Middleton

Explore lesser-known preserves on Virginia’s Northern Neck

An easy 10-minute hike through towering oak and hickory brought me to an observation deck 25 feet above Bush Mill Stream on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Below, the stream meandered through straw-colored cordgrass, fringing dark mudflats that sparkled with ice from the receding tide.

Cumberland Marsh beckons birds and birders alike

Fall migration is an excellent time to spot a wide variety of birds, and identifying a few birding hotspots can help fledgling birders — as well as experienced ones — know where to go. During fall and well into winter, bird watching groups in the Chesapeake region often flock to Cumberland Marsh Natural Area, about 35 minutes east of Richmond by car.

The 1,100-acre preserve,...

Lower Chickahominy’s fish, wildlife lure visitors

The broad marshes along the wooded banks of the Chickahominy River in Virginia still evoke the landscape that English explorer Capt. John Smith first saw when he visited this area in 1607.

And it is the same mix of forest, river and marsh that made my paddle down Morris Creek — a tributary of the Chickahominy — so compelling on an early spring morning.

I launched my kayak...

Steamboats engineered change along the Chesapeake

Inside the foyer of the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, VA, 200 small white lights illuminate a map of the Chesapeake Bay. Together, they trace a constellation along the estuary’s shorelines, meandering up its rivers and marking ports of call for the large fleet of steamships that traversed these waters for nearly 150 years.

Museums, trails, river lure visitors to Port Royal, VA

Looking out over the Rappahannock River from a new 100-foot fishing pier in Port Royal, VA, Cleo Coleman sees more than a good place to cast a line. She sees the town’s past, present and future. “You are looking at the primary fact that the town is here,” Coleman said.

The Rappahannock River was once essential for commerce and transportation, and Port Royal boomed because of...

Preserve walks celebrate VA Natural Heritage Program’s 30th year

A small round field of native grasses is criss-crossed and matted by wildlife trails, surrounded by a forest of oak and hickory. But in wetter seasons, this field is not a field. It’s a pond — a globally rare sinkhole pond at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley.

Float through history on York River’s Taskinas Creek

A small flotilla of canoes filled with “junior rangers” and their parents was floating on the gentle, outgoing tide of Virginia’s Taskinas Creek.

The current pulled the canoes past muddy banks, pockmarked by the holes of fiddler crabs and gripped by the roots of small cordgrass. A fish splashed near the opposite bank. The rank smell of the marsh filled the air.

From her...

VA advances plan to reduce marine debris, from bits to boats

Attendees at the Second Virginia Marine Debris Summit watched in horror as the man in the YouTube video showed how to apply glitter to his beard.

Rather than marvel at this flashy new fashion fad, they focused on how thousands of bits of shiny plastic glitter would be washed down the drain, where some could make it through wastewater treatment plants and wind up in the water or...

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About Leslie Middleton

Leslie Middleton's avatar

Leslie Middleton writes about water quality, public access, and the special places of the Chesapeake Bay region from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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