March 2, 2020
What is a Watershed?

What Watershed Do You Live In?

watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it and drains off of it goes into the same body of water.

Virginia Beach has a very complex system of watersheds. Each has its own history and beauty and for the network of our waterways that shape our land and our lives. In Virginia Beach there are eight watersheds that make up three major watersheds, the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Albemarle-Pamlico.

The Lynnhaven, Little Creek and Elizabeth River watersheds make up approximately 30% of Virginia Beach’s land area and are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Back Bay, North Landing River, and Northwest River watersheds make up approximately 67% of Virginia Beach land area and are part of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed.

The coastal areas and the Rudee/owl creek watershed flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean.


Major Watersheds (Link info on bay and Albemarle)

Watersheds of Virginia Beach

Little Creek

The Little Creek waterways were historically part of the Lynnhaven River system. Over time, some were cut off from the river to provide a source of fresh water. Today, Lake Smith and Lake Lawson are beautiful recreation and fishing areas.

Lynnhaven River

The three branches of the Lynnhaven River system, the Western Branch, the Eastern Branch, and Linkhorn and Broad Bays, and all of the coves and creeks that feed them, wind throughout the northern part of Virginia Beach. The Lynnhaven watershed is the second largest watershed in Virginia Beach and home to more than half of the city’s population. This watershed contains most of the city’s strategic growth areas and is densely developed with both urban and suburban areas. The Lynnhaven is a salt water estuary renowned for its delicious oysters.

Atlantic Ocean

The areas of our city that drain directly into the Atlantic Ocean are small but important. The resort area hotels and destinations are a critical part of our local economy.

Rudee and Owl Creek

Owl Creek runs behind the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and joins the Rudee Inlet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Rudee and Owl Creek are salty like the ocean and the home to many ocean going boats. The watershed contains several neighborhoods and forms the southern part of the resort area.

Back Bay

The Back Bay watershed contains suburban development in the northern areas and farmland and protected areas to the south. Bay Back flows into Currituck Sound and is part of the Albemarle-Pamlico system. Over its history, Back Bay has fluctuated from fresh to brackish and back to fresh. It is part of the important east coast flyway and home to many migrating waterfowl in the winter months. Back Bay is renowned for its bass fishing and duck hunting.

North Landing River
The North Landing River watershed is the largest in the city and the North Landing is Virginia Beach’s only State Scenic River. This watershed contains suburban development in the northern parts, farmland, and large areas of protected forests. With its dense poccosins and many acres of protected forests, the North Landing watershed has an amazing diversity of floura and fauna and is mostly undiscovered by the residents of Virginia Beach. Like Back Bay, the North Landing flows into the Albemarle-Pamlico system in North Carolina.

Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River

The Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River flows from Norfolk into the Kempsville area of Virginia Beach. This is a highly developed area of our city with mostly suburban style development but some aging infrastructure. The section of the Eastern Branch is far from the mouth of the Elizabeth River which means that the salinity levels and tidal influences are lower than in the Lynnhaven and Rudee/Owl Creek systems.

Northwest River

One small area in the southwest corner of Virginia Beach is in the Northwest River Watershed. Most of the Northwest River is in Chesapeake and like the Back Bay and North Landing River, are part of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed.





PEARL HOMES are places where people care about our environment and want to do what they can to help protect our resources.

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Lynnhaven River NOW recognizes schools providing outstanding environmental education as a Pearl School.

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PEARL BUSINESSES are essential to truly move towards a more sustainable Virginia Beach and cleaner waters.

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We all want to do our part to restore the health of all of our sacred waterways and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

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SUSTAINABLE YARDS PROGRAM: Let us help you “green” your Lynnhaven watershed home. This unique program provides specific stormwater management practices to your yard at a significantly reduced cost to you.

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