North Landing River Preserve

North Landing is one of the largest undisturbed freshwater marshes along the eastern seaboard

Why You Should Visit

North Landing River Preserve is one of the largest expanses of undisturbed freshwater marsh habitat along the entire eastern seaboard. This unusual wetland system provides a habitat for southern species of plants that are rare in Virginia, including sawgrass, an integral part of the Florida Everglades.


West bank of the North Landing River in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

View preserve guidelines.  Please note: dogs are not allowed at any Conservancy preserve.


Daily dawn to dusk.


7,533 acres


A 1/5-mile boardwalk runs through the woods to the marsh. The rest of the preserve is accessible only by boat. 

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Influenced primarily by wind tides as opposed to lunar tides, this unusual wetlands system provides a habitat for southern species of plants that are rare in Virginia. About half of the rare plants are at or near their northern limit. It has the highest concentration of rare species east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy and the commonwealth of Virginia together have protected more than 10,000 acres along the North Landing. Conservancy staff are working with the state and other partners to control invasive species, especially Phragmites. Protecting corridors along the North Landing and Northwest rivers remains a top priority for the Conservancy. 

Learn more about the Southern Rivers program.

View Preserve Guidelines 

What to See: Animals

Least bitterns, great herons and other waterfowl are all present. Spring and fall are the ideal times for observing migrating birds.

Hollow trees provide a comfortable den for raccoons, opossums and squirrels. Muskrat and otter build lodges hidden among the grasses for their shelter. Deer retreat to nearby forests to bed down for the day.

As fall advances and insects become less active, neotropical migratory songbirds move through the area as they journey south to their winter feeding grounds. Some birds, including ducks, geese and swans, will remain here all winter, feeding on fruits, berries or marsh grasses. The yellow-rumped warbler arrives about the time wax myrtle berries begin to ripen and remains until spring.

What to See: Plants

During the summer, the marshes explode with color as the herbaceous plants begin to bloom. Visitors can see rose mallow, which are large flowers in varying shades of pink and white; the orange flowers of the rare lanceolate milkweed; flowers of the arrowhead family, which are white and grow circles of three on the stem; and pickerelweed, which produces spikes of violet-blue flowers.

An unusual plant species at the preserve is sawgrass, which is not a grass at all but a member of the sedge family. It is a southern species reaching its northernmost limit in southeastern Virginia along the North Landing River and extending southward to the Gulf Coast. Sawgrass reaches its greatest abundance in the Florida Everglades. By rubbing your fingers along the edges of the leaf blades you can feel the sawlike bristles, capable of scratching or cutting exposed skin.

There are a total of 32 rare plants at the preserve, and along the edges of the marsh, a young cypress forest has developed.

For more information, contact the Virginia Program office at (434) 295-6106.


From the north (Northern Va. or Richmond area):

  • Take I-95 south to I-64 east.
  • Follow 1-64 past Hampton Roads to Virginia Beach.
  • Take exit #286B, Indian River Road (Route 407 East).
  • Follow Indian River Road about 8 miles to North Landing Road (Note: Watch for a tricky zigzag at Elbow Road. You want to stay on Indian River Road).
  • Turn right onto North Landing Road.
  • Go 2.2 miles, then turn left onto Fentress Airfield Road.
  • Turn left immediately onto Blackwater Road, and follow it for 9.3 miles to the preserve entrance (on your left). (You will pass Blackwater Trading Post after 7.2 miles, then Blackwater Fire Station after 2 more miles. The preserve entrance is a few hundred yards past the fire station. )
  • There is a small parking area. If you reach the North Carolina border, you've missed it!

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!

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