Brownsville Preserve

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.


Virginia's Eastern Shore

11332 Brownsville Road - PO Box 158
Nassawadox, VA 23413
Phone: (757) 442-3049


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
  • Bike are allowed at Brownsville.  Please hike or bike only on the designated marked trail and respect the areas marked private or no trespassing
  • View preserve guidelines.  Please note: dogs are not allowed at any of our other Conservancy preserves

1,250 acres

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.

Brownsville in the News

A Visit to Brownsville Nature Preserve (Cape Charles Mirror) - Writer Jane McKinley pays a visit to the Virginia Coast Reserve to learn more about the mission of The Nature Conservancy and experience the Brownsville Preserve’s protected habitat.

Guest Blog: Make the World a Better Place During Your Vacation (ESVA Tourism) - Margaret Van Clief, VCR's outreach and education coordinator, shares ways to enjoy and explore the Eastern Shore - and help make a difference for nature.

Nature Conservancy Open House on Virginia Shore a Hit (Delmarva Now) - Highlights from our second annual Open Farm event at Brownsville Preserve.

Additional Resources

Visit the Virginia Coast Reserve landing page to learn more about our land protection, migratory bird, and marine habitat restoration work as well as our education and community outreach programs.

View highlights from our 2016 Open Farm event.


Open Farm 2017

Open Farm Day is an opportunity to share beautiful Brownsville Preserve with our neighbors and visitors on the Eastern Shore.

Bioblitz Dance

7th grade students participating in the Bioblitz at Brownsville Preserve on May 5, 2016 show off their Bioblitz Dance-off moves!

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.

There are six geocaches at Brownsville.  Enjoy a treasure hunt in nature!

Preserve Guidelines

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.
  • Bikes are permitted at Brownsville
  • Please hike or bike only on the designated marked trail and respect the areas marked private or no trespassing
  • 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!
Tour Stops / Audio Files (mp3)
  1. Introduction to Brownsville Farm
  2. End of Boardwalk - Transition Zone
  3. Trumpet Vine
  4. Forest Canopy and Forest Floor
  5. Open Saltmarsh
  6. Restored Field and Forest Undergrowth
  7. Bend in the Road and Snags
  8. Man-made Pond and Water Management Structure
  9. Screen House on South Meadow
  10. Observation Deck Research Area
  11. Man-made Impoundments for Waterfowl
  12. 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

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



Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments


Stay Updated

Learn about the places you love and find out how you can help by signing up for Nature eNews.

I'm already on the list Read our privacy policy

Thank you for joining our online community!

We'll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates, and exciting stories.