By Mary Reid Barrow
You could spend many years in Virginia Beach and not really know much about the North Landing River, an unsung hero as far as rivers go.
In fact you may never even see the North Landing, except in the hustle and bustle of traffic. And if you do take notice, you might not know you are crossing a river that is an important part of the Intracoastal Waterway and home to many rare plant species.
This river stretches from the northern to the southern border of the City, from its headwaters in Kempsville all the way to the Currituck Sound at the North Carolina line.
It is the namesake of the city’s largest watershed, the North Landing River Watershed.
The river forms the boundary line in many cases between Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Those that go back and forth between the two cities cross the North Landing River often in their commute but know the crossing as only a route to somewhere else, not the river.
The North Landing River is mostly an obscure treasure for good reason. It borders not only on farmlands, but also on forestlands and freshwater wetlands that are home to the most rare species of plants in Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Both the City and the Nature Conservancy own protected natural areas along the river. The state endangered canebrake rattlesnake along with other critters like beavers and otters live there. So does the marsh plant, called sawgrass, that is living in its northernmost habitat, along with a rare species of orchid and milkweed.
One of the most pleasant ways to get a quick, first hand introduction to the North Landing is to take a Sunday afternoon outing into the country and drive across the high rise Pungo Ferry Bridge.
The bridge is on Pungo Ferry Road between Princess Anne and Blackwater roads. The traffic is always light and the bridge really stands as a beautiful manmade monument to the beautiful wonder of nature below. Before or after you cross, you can stop by narbyPungo Ferry Landing Park and see the river up close from the boat ramp there.
Once on the bridge , look down and find one of the oxbows, that look like an oxen’s yoke, in the river. That oxbow and others were bypassed many years ago to straighten out the river to allow for faster boat travel.
You can see an oxbow where the words “North Landing River” are printed in the bow.
Now the oxbows up and down the river that first served to speed farm products to market, are a vital part of the Intracoastal Waterway. In spring and fall, you can look down from the bridge and see yachts moving south or north for the season.
Yachters easily see the river’s beauty, its eagles and ospreys, its cypress trees, it’s wildflowers in bloom and its’ critters lurking along the water’s edge.
If you really want to see the North Landing River, a boat is the way to go!
Erik Moore, who took the beautiful photo of the bridge, runs eco tours on the river and he probably knows more about what you can see in this pristine waterway than anyone around. If a visit to the bridge inspires you, check out https://www.mooretosee.com and go for a trip and get really inspired!
LRNow will be focusing on the North Landing River this month and we will point out other ways to get to know the river in our social media. Do you have a favorite spot along the river? Let me know.