Paddling West Neck Creek in Virginia Beach is like looking down and finding a diamond in the middle of a a bus station. This gem of a waterway is so unique and picturesque, you’ll hardly believe you’re in Virginia Beach. It is designated as a scenic waterway and there are many ways to put together paddles of various distance and times.
One of the most popular paddles here is to put in at Dozier’s Bridge on Princess Anne Rd and head south (start out by going under Princess Anne Road). This stretch of the creek is narrow, the banks are wooded, and there is always a good chance of seeing deer, raccoon, nutria, muskrats, kingfisher, barred owl, and various wading birds. Keep your eyes peeled for a massive bald cypress tree on river left about a mile and a half into the paddle.
After about three miles you reach Indian River Rd (there’s no parking here). You can turn around now, or continue about 2 miles further to reach West Neck Road. This part of the creek widens and has many small offshoots to explore. You’re still likely to see deer in this section, as well as otter, bald eagles, and osprey. You may see a bass boat or two in this section. Just past the West Neck Road bridge is West Neck Marina. For a fee you can leave a car here and do a one way trip from Dozier’s Bridge if you have someone to run a shuttle. If you wish, you can paddle to the North Landing River, which you’ll reach in about another mile and a half.
Now, why paddle this in winter? The leaves are off the trees, allowing you to see into the woods and increasing your chances of wildlife sightings. Motorboat traffic is almost non-existent. This time of year there are no mosquitos to worry about, no deerflies, and much less chance of chiggers or ticks if you get out of the boat. And the reason many people like paddling this waterway in winter-NO snakes! In spring and summer you are almost certain to see a snake on West Neck Creek.
Winter paddling anywhere is more dangerous than paddling when it’s warm. A capsize could mean hypothermia or even death. Dress properly, meaning dress for the water temperature. Carry a spare set of warm clothing in a waterproof container for every person in the group, take a thermos of hot coffee or tea, and know how to do rescues before you go.
There are a few things to keep in mind that are specific to West Neck Creek. One is that the creek is subject to wind tides. If the wind has been out of the north for a few days, the water level drops and paddling is difficult. Another thing to keep in mind is that logjams can occur, and once in a while trees fall across the creek. You may have to portage around them.