About the Salt Marshes
Between the Virginia barrier islands and the Eastern Shore mainland, lies a vast system of salt marshes and coastal lagoons. As the tide ebbs and flows from this unique system, a mosaic of habitats is revealed including extensive smooth cordgrass marshes, mudflats, sandbars and oyster reefs. Just under the water’s surface the complexity continues with deep channels, shallow lagoons and restored eelgrass meadows. These habitats provide critical ecosystem services such as filtering water and providing nursery and foraging habitats for developing fish, crabs, migratory birds and other organisms. One adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water per day! This important area along the Seaside also plays a vital role in protecting the Eastern Shore mainland from the forces of the Atlantic Ocean by buffering storms, absorbing wave energy and mitigating storm surge. A healthy and intact saltmarsh system is key to increasing the resiliency of the system in the face of sea level rise and a changing climate.
Virginia’s seaside salt marshes also support a variety of recreational uses such as hunting and fishing. Managed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, these areas are open to the public for these traditional uses. Keep in mind that some salt marshes that are connected to upland properties may have different use policies if they are under different ownership. In addition, many high ground areas within the salt marshes provide nesting and/or roosting habitat for migratory birds that are easily disturbed.