Photo by Gordon Campbell | At Altitude Gallery

Salt Marshes

Owned and managed by: Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Private inholdings exist and visitors should respect property boundaries.

The majority of the salt marshes on the seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore that are not contiguous with barrier islands are open to the public for traditional uses such as hunting and fishing.

Visiting Salt Marshes

The Seaside is a dynamic landscape with constantly shifting tides, sands and weather. Safety is a top concern when visiting this remote area with limited accessibility and services. Stay alert, come prepared and be aware of island use policies.

Many of the seaside salt marshes are flooded with each high tide, but be aware that higher areas such as shell piles and sandy ridges support nesting and roosting birds that are easily disturbed.

For information about our policies, please contact the Virginia Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Views of Salt Marsh

Photos by Alex Wilke | TNC

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.

Discover a Coastal Wilderness

The Atlantic coastline of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a unique coastal wilderness that spans 70 miles from the Virginia/Maryland border to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The region is characterized by vast, mostly undeveloped marshes, barrier island beaches and coastal lagoons that support globally important populations of migratory birds, are the site of intensive large scale oyster reef and eelgrass restoration projects, and provide extensive recreation opportunities in remote settings. Learn more about the natural history of this amazing coastal landscape.



Virginia Marine Resources Commission

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) serves as the steward of the Commonwealth’s marine and aquatic resources, and protectors of its tidal waters and homelands. It manages recreational and commercial saltwater fishing and works to create and maintain sustainable coastal fisheries. VMRC also manages a significant portion of the state’s tidal marshes and water bottoms to ensure the long term protection and productivity of these sensitive habitats.

Explore Our Seaside Partners

The seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is almost entirely owned and managed by non-profit, state and federal agencies. These partners share the common goal of protecting natural resources, while balancing sustainable recreational and economic use of the seaside. Learn more about our partnership.