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Charlotte, North Carolina
January 18, 2006
You will find Fist Landing State Park on the drive from Virginia Beach to Fort Story. It can easily be missed, as the entrance is located in between a housing development.
On April 26,1607 European settlers first landed here before heading out to Jamestown. In 1933 the commonwealth of Virginia purchased more than 2000 acres of land and established the First Landing State Park.
Today 2,270 acres offer visitors a chance to explore and enjoy more than 28 miles of trails. The park is listed on the National Register of Natural Landmarks. Here you will find something for the outdoor enthusiast including hiking trails, a beach, bird watching, and kayaking.
Lace up your hiking boots and explore the 28 miles of trails here that take you through marshes and woods. Bring your binoculars and enjoy the numerous birds that can be found here. You can rent bikes from the main office and peddle along the 6-mile Cape Henry Trail. For the water lovers in your group, sign up for one of the kayak tours offered by the park. You may swim in Chesapeake Bay, but there are no lifeguards available. Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times.
There is a visitor’s center, which provides information on the park, trail maps, as well as restrooms and vending machines. The center is open from 9-6 during the summer and 9-5 the rest of the year. They are closed on major holidays. Here you can also sign up for hiking tours, eco tours, and kayaking tours. During the summer months they offer a variety of classes for children and families. There is a monument to mark the landing in nearby Fort Story. Fort Story is an active military base, but they do allow visitors. All persons over 18 must have ID and agree to have your car searched.
They do offer picnic benches and several shelters for groups. You need to contact the visitor’s center to reserve one of the covered shelters. The park also offers 20 2-bedroom cabins for rent. Or if you have your own, they do offer both tent and RV spaces. Rental prices vary and sometime require minimum stay. You can contact the center for more information or to make reservations on line.
The park is truly a unique gem amongst the ever-growing beach side community. This park allows visitors to just reconnect with nature and enjoy this park as the settlers first did almost 400 years ago. I just hope Virginia will continue to allow this park to remain natural and unspoiled. As I said the entrance is accessible by driving through a housing development and from Chesapeake Bay you can look out and see the encroaching condos, townhouses, and elaborate waterside houses. Here's to hoping this place of beauty can continue to delight visitors as it first did in 1607. For more information go to www.vbfun.com.
From journal Lovin' Life in Virginia Beach.
December 22, 2002
Or has it?
Whereas at home in Maryland the palette in late November has been reduced to the muddy browns of oaks and mulberries, driving south we notice colorful foliage reappearing. What’s more, in the many parks and nature preserves near Virginia Beach, we find an interesting mix of both subtropical and temperate plants.
First Landing State Park has a number of visitors this fine day after Thanksgiving. Family groups, contented-looking retired couples, and joggers on the path nod to each other in implicit recognition: we’ve all come to this place to enjoy what’s left of the season before some inconsiderate wind delivers the coup de grace.
What’s most striking about First Landing is its rich variety of ecosystems: beach gives way to dunes, then marsh, swamp, and forest, all interconnected on 19 miles of well-marked trails. We’ve brought our bikes, and thus spend most of our time on the Cape Henry bike path, which runs for some five miles through upland forest. We pedal along slowly, the better to appreciate the play of light upon the yellow ashes, red maples, and burnt orange sassafras. Of all this autumnal ensemble, however, the standout performer is the melodiously named Liquidambar, or sweet gum tree.
Now, anyone who has sweet gum trees can tell you what an inconvenience they are. Covered with miniature spiny balls that become unsightly litter, not to mention a barefoot walker’s nightmare, the tree redeems itself in autumn when its broad, shiny star-shaped leaves suddenly catch fire. Here at First Landing, sweet gums abound, their scarlet leaves handsomely set off by a dark green backdrop of pines.
We cross a wooden bridge leading to the swamp, realm of the bald cypresses, peculiar conifers that drop their needles like deciduous trees. Covered in the ghostly silvery tresses of Spanish moss, the cypresses raise their ungainly "knees" from the still, tannin-stained waters of the swamp. The purpose of these structures once baffled botanists, who ultimately decided the knees act as buttresses, giving the cypresses better purchase in the wet soil.
And then, suddenly, we pedal from the gloom of the swamp into the broad vista of a tidal marsh. There is a white flash of some wading bird, an ibis perhaps, sailing to the protection of a line of tall loblolly pines. The wind bends the reeds to its steady will and ruffles the flat surface of the water.
Finally, we come to the beach itself, our bike tires slipping in the sand. There’s an enormous parking lot nearby, but not a single car in it. We imagine, with no little satisfaction, the absent crowds of beachgoers.
From journal November Sands
August 6, 2000
From journal Family Visiting Virginia Beach