Open to the Public
Download an Audio Tour View All
Birds and other wildlife abound at Brownsville Preserve. From the boardwalk and trails traversing this historic farm, you may see deer, fox, raccoons, blue herons, bald eagles, wild turkeys and many other species of birds.
The Conservancy manages Brownsville to enhance bird habitat, and the farm serves as headquarters for the Virginia Coast Reserve.
Eastern Shore, near Nassawadox
Daily ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.
For visitor safety during the deer hunting season (October through early January), preserve hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Before You Go
- Leashed dogs are permitted on the William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail ONLY
- Dogs on the trail must be leashed at all times
- Dogs are not allowed on any of the Virginia Coast Reserve islands
- View preserve guidelines. Please note: dogs are not allowed at any of our other Conservancy preserves
History of Brownsville
Until the Conservancy purchased Brownsville in 1978, the farm had remained in the Upshur family since 1652.
At one time, the owner ran a castor-oil mill on the property. From his wharf on Brownsville Creek, he also shipped huge loads of corn to New York and New England via chartered vessels.
According to Whitelaw's Virginia's Eastern Shore, Mr. Upshur added a frame wing onto the family's 1806 three-story brick home because of the many relatives who lived there. He is claimed to have said, "There is no place to put the sole of my foot." Today, the historic Brownsville house is used to accommodate occasional guests and for special events.
What the Conservancy Is Doing
In partnership with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Conservancy placed Brownsville Preserve in the Wildlife Enhancement Program. We have created shallow-water impoundments and planted crops and hedgerows that enhance habitat for birds.
The preserve is also managed for a small population of the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel.
Brownsville also hosts the Virginia Coast Reserve office, and a dock on the property is a launching point for staff members heading out to work on the barrier islands.
Explore Virginia's Wild Coast in the Dec 14 / Jan 15 issue of Nature Conservancy magazine.
Plan Your Visit
The William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail offers a round-trip hike of three miles through memorable coastal Virginia scenery. Explore wooded uplands, take in expansive marsh views, and enjoy the variety of life all around you.
Bring your binoculars, field guides, and a camera. Especially in warm weather, don't forget insect and tick repellent!
Numbers on the map correspond with markers along the trail. Refer to the trail guide for information on these points of interest.
Please help us protect this area by observing these guidelines:
- Leashed dogs are permitted on Brownsville's Birding and Wildlife trail ONLY. Dog are NOT allowed on any of the Virginia Coast Reserve islands. Dogs on the trail must be leashed at all times.
- Please hike only on the designated marked trail and respect the areas marked private or no trespassing
- Foot traffic only beyond parking area. No cycling. No horseback riding. No ATVs
- Preserve closes at 1/2 hour after sunset, daily. For safety during the deer hunting season, visitor hours at 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (October through early January)
- Camping and fires are not permitted
- Wear sensible shoes, carry drinking water, and don't forget insect repellent. Beware of poison ivy and check for ticks after hiking
- Respect the safety of all visitors and wildlife and please do not collect anything (take only pictures and leave only footprints)
You may also wish to combine your visit to Brownsville with other Eastern Shore sites on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.
Download an Audio Tour
Before your trip to Brownsville, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!
- Step 1: Download the Brownsville audio tour map. The numbers marked on the map correspond to the audio files in the tour.
- Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests! Need a little help saving the files? Check out our step-by-step guide!
Downloadable Files (mp3 format)
- Introduction to Brownsville Farm
- End of Boardwalk - Transition Zone
- Trumpet Vine
- Forest Canopy and Forest Floor
- Open Saltmarsh
- Restored Field and Forest Undergrowth
- Bend in the Road and Snags
- Man-made Pond and Water Management Structure
- Screen House on South Meadow
- Observation Deck Research Area
- Man-made Impoundments for Waterfowl
- Philips Creek
Brownsville is located near Nassawadox, Virginia, approximately 25 miles north of the northern toll booth of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The Norfolk International Airport is approximately 75 minutes away; Salisbury, Maryland, is approximately 1 ½ hours north of Brownsville; and Washington, D.C., is approximately 4 hours north of Brownsville.
CBBT TOLL UPDATE: The one-way toll cost is now $13. Peak season pricing for travel Friday thru Sunday during May 15 thru September 15 is $15. Credit cards are accepted. For travelers using an EZ Pass, the cost of a return trip within 24-hours is $5. Effective January 1, 2014, ALL toll discounts offered by the CBBT require the use of EZ Pass. For more information visit www.cbbt.com.
From Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C.:
- Take 495 North around Washington; after you enter Maryland, take Exit 19 for Route 50 East (John Hanson Highway)
- Follow Route 50 East across the Intercoastal Waterway, continuing to Salisbury, Maryland
- In Salisbury, pick up Route 13 South. Stay on Route 13 South into Virginia
- From Virginia state line travel approximately 55 miles to the Nassawadox stoplight
- Continue directions from Nassawadox stoplight at bottom of page
From Richmond, Norfolk, and all points west:
- Take I-64 East (295 North around Richmond, if you choose) through Norfolk
- Pick up Route 13 East by taking a right exit off I-64 onto Northampton Blvd, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (toll will be $12 one way*)
- After crossing the CBBT, continue on US 13 for approximately 25 miles to the Nassawadox stoplight
- Continue directions from Nassawadox stoplight below
From Nassawadox Stoplight (All Travelers):
- Turn eastward across the railroad tracks onto Rogers Drive, Rt. 606
- Go 0.2 mile to Stop sign at Rt. 600 (Seaside Road)
- Turn left (north) onto Seaside Road
- Go 0.2 miles on Seaside Road to Brownsville Road (Rt. 608)
- Turn right onto Brownsville Road
- Follow road past preserve entrance sign, and look for sign to parking area