Free School Marsh & Michael Marsh Tracts, Saxis Wildlife Management Area

Important Notices

COVID-19 & the VBWTBefore heading out to visit a site on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail, be sure to check if that site has any COVID-19 policies or closures in place. This information is typically posted on a site's own website.

Description

This 5,678 acre Wildlife Management Area (WMA), owned by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, remains one of the regions most pristine marshlands. It is divided into three tracts: Free School Marsh, Michael Marsh, and Guard Shore. All three tracts are peninsulas, bordered by the brackish waters of Beasley Bay, Pocomoke Sound or Messongo Creek, or several smaller fresh water creeks. Forested high ground, or hummocks, occupy portions of the area farthest inland. Maintained primarily in its natural state, there is little in the way of active management or development on the area.

Birding and wildlife viewing access at this WMA is largely limited to viewing by boat. There are several public launch ramps available near the WMA. For a map of boating access near and around Saxis WMA, please visit the Saxis WMA webpage where a map and more information is available.

Additional viewing opportunity is from State Route 695/ Saxis Rd, which does bisect a large portion of the Free School Marsh Tract, however there are limited opportunities to pull-off and view from this road.

Saxis Fishing Pier, which is over open deeper water, may offer opportunities to see ducks, grebes, loons, and migrating gulls.

Tract Descriptions:

Free School Marsh, the large northernmost tract of the WMA, is prime habitat for seaside sparrow and marsh wren. Boat-tailed grackles also utilize the site and can be seen displaying from posts, while orchard orioles sing in the scattered trees. Countless fiddler crabs occur in the sloughs that transect the marsh, providing food for large wading birds such as little blue heron and great egret.

Michael Marsh, the large central tract of the WMA, is managed for waterfowl and is a black duck breeding and wintering ground. A variety of other birds also take advantage of the excellent habitat. Rough-legged hawk and short-eared owl visit the site in the winter, as well as grebes, loons, and migrating gulls such as Bonaparte’s.

Guard Shore is the smaller southernmost tract of Saxis WMA. For more information on this tract click here.

Notes:

  • Access to this site is free, only if kayaking/ canoeing or driving on Rt. 695/Saxis Rd.
  • To Access the Site on Foot (walking into the marshes themselves): A Restore the Wild Membership, Virginia hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.
  • Hunting could be occurring at this site April 1 – May 31 and September 1 – February 28th, except on Sundays. If you are visiting this site during hunting seasons, please wear blaze orange or blaze pink for safety.

Directions

Physical Location of Hammock Boat Ramp: Hammock Rd, Saxis, VA 23427

To Hammock Boat Ramp, from US-13 in Temperanceville: Take Rt 695/ Saxis Rd west for 8.6 miles, then turn left onto Hammock Rd and continue 0.8 miles towards the Hammock Boat Ramp.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries - Region1 Office: 804-829-6580, BirdingTrail@dgif.virginia.gov
  • Website
  • Access: Daily. Free, if kayaking/ canoeing or driving on Saxis Rd/ Rt. 695. If entering the marshes on foot, a Restore the Wild Membership, hunting license, freshwater fishing license, boat registration, or an access permit is required.

Birds Recently Seen at Free School Marsh & Michael Marsh Tracts, Saxis Wildlife Management Area (as reported to eBird)

  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Clapper Rail
  • Laughing Gull
  • Royal Tern
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • American Crow
  • Carolina Chickadee

Seasonal Bird Observations

Facilities

  • Kayak/Canoe Launch
  • Site Viewable Only By Boat
  • Boat Ramp