Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in the southeastern corner of the City of Virginia Beach. The refuge was established in 1938 to protect and provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Diverse habitats, including beachfront, freshwater marsh, dunes, shrub-scrub and upland forest are home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish.

Visit Us

There are many opportunities for outdoor recreation at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge! Visitors enjoy hiking, biking, wildlife observation and photography, kayaking and both freshwater and surf fishing. Refuge grounds are open sunrise to sunset, daily.

Location and Contact Information


      The refuge works with neighboring False Cape State Park to provide tram tours throughout the year. Tram tours begin at the wildlife refuge parking lot and start with a ride through the wildlife refuge to reach the state park. After a brief visit at the park's Visitor Center the tram continues deep into the state park, all the way to the site of the historic Wash Woods community. A one-mile, round-trip (optional) hike brings participants to the cemetery and church steeple, all that is left of this community. After returning to the tram, passengers are transported back through the park and wildlife refuge to the starting point. Throughout the trip the tram driver provides information about the history, wildlife and management of both natural areas. Please contact False Cape State Park at (757)426-7128 for the current tram tour schedule and to make a reservation.

      Our Organization

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 570 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      Over 300 species of birds and dozens of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects and fish have been documented at the wildlife refuge. Check out the species page for a few of the wildlife that call Back Bay NWR home.

      Get Involved

      Volunteers are an integral part of many aspects of the operations at Back Bay NWR. Unfortunately, due to constraints in place due to COVID-19 many volunteer activities have been reduced or postponed at this time. Please see the "Get Involved" page for more information on the types of volunteer projects typically in place at the wildlife refuge.

      Projects and Research

      Established for migrating and wintering waterfowl, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge focuses on providing optimal feeding and resting habitats for birds. A freshwater impoundment complex is managed to provide waterfowl feeding and resting areas during the winter months. Outside of the winter season these wetland pools provide habitat for shorebirds, wading birds and a variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Regular surveys of birds and vegetation provide information which assists in determining if current management objectives are being met to benefit our trust species. 

      Connecting with the community is also an important part of Back Bay NWR's operations. Refuge staff work with local schools and community organizations to provide environmental education activities that connect children with nature and foster a love of the outdoors. Interpretive programs are also conducted throughout the year for the local and visiting public.