Located in the southeastern corner of Virginia, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, particularly snow geese. The Refuge contains over 9,000 acres of land, situated in and around a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic coast. Approximately 10,000 snow geese and a large variety of ducks and other waterfowl visit Back Bay during the annual peak migration. The Refuge also provides habitat for a wide assortment of other wildlife, including threatened and endangered species such as piping plovers and loggerhead sea turtles.
More than 350 species of birds have been observed on the Refuge. Migrating songbirds and shorebirds arrive each spring. Brightly colored warblers dot shrub and woodland areas, while shorebirds line the intertidal zone and search for food in shallow waters. The varied habitats of Back Bay provide food and cover for mammals such as river otters, white tailed deer, mink, opossums, raccoons and red and gray foxes.
Wildlife managers constantly work to improve the quality of wildlife habitat. Habitat management includes water level manipulation, prescribed burning, plowing, disking, dike construction and seasonal closures to protect various species.
Visitors come to Back Bay to enjoy the unique beauty of the area, to learn about wildlife, and to participate in wildlife-dependent recreation. The Refuge has a visitor contact station with displays, brochures and films available. Two boardwalk trails lead to the beach, and the East and West Dikes are open to bicyclists on a seasonal basis. The refuge also operates a seasonal tram tour that provides visitors with a guided interpretive tour through the refuge and False Cape State Park. Surf and freshwater fishing are permitted in specific areas. A Virginia fishing license is required. Hunting is available by permit.