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Goodwin Islands, National Estuarine Research Reserve

Important Notices

COVID-19 & the VBWT: Be Safe While OutdoorsDGIF encourages you to be safe while outdoors. Before heading out, first check with individual sites on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail to find out whether they are still open to the public. Information regarding closures is typically posted on a site's own website. Be advised that some sites, even if still open, may have certain public facilities closed during this time. If a site is still open, maintain CDC social distancing guidelines while enjoying the outdoors.


The Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia is located in the mouth of the York River on the extreme northeast point of York County. It is accessible only by boat and once at the island, paddle around or moor your boat and wade ashore. Access may be limited due to ongoing research and waterfowl hunting seasons. Visitors should check the website before visiting this site.

The Goodwin Islands are characterized by a range of marsh-island habitat types and the biological communities often associated with them. The northern side of the main island features a prominent beach, but most of the complex is extensive marsh. The low marsh is dominated by saltmarsh cordgrass and salt meadow hay. The forested wetland ridges on the main island are dominated by estuarine shrub-scrub wetlands with a loblolly pine overstory. Wax myrtle is the dominant shrub. The upland ridge is vegetated by red oak, loblolly pine, cottonwood and black gum. Submerged aquatic vegetation — primarily eel-grass and widgeon grass — covers 300 acres of offshore river bottom. Tidal sand flats around the Goodwin Islands are regularly exposed at low tide. The areas are nursery, spawning and foraging habitats for many finfish, birds and other animals.


Site viewable only by boat. Nearest Boat Landing is at Back Creek Park.

Physical Address of Back Creek Park: 3000 Goodwin Neck Road, YorktownVA 23692

From the Previous Site on the Lower Peninsula Loop of VBWT:

From Yorktown National Battlefield, return to US 17/George Washington Memorial Highway South. Follow US 17 to SR 173 and turn left onto Goodwin Neck Road/SR 173 across from Denbigh Boulevard. Follow Goodwin Neck Road/SR 173 for 3.5 miles. Back Creek Park will be on your right.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: (804) 684-7119 lerbergs@vims.edu
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Daily,

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Environmental Study Area
  • Interpretive Nature Program
  • Parking
  • Site Viewable Only By Boat