Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – Virginia Beach VA

City:
Virginia Beach, VA

Site Type:
Forestry and Agriculture, Wildlife Refuges

New Deal Agencies:
Bureau of Biological Survey, Work Relief Programs, Fish & Wildlife Service (FSW), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

Started:
1938

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
No

Site Survival:
Extant

Description

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) completed work at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (also called Back Bay Migratory Waterfowl Refuge).

The work was completed at this site by the CCC unit that resided at the nearby, but completely inland, Camp Pungo in what is now Virginia Beach. The original work extended from the Life-Saving/Coast Guard Station at Dam Neck, Virginia to the border with North Carolina well beyond its purchased property. Its most significant creation was the efforts to create a primary dune along the coast of Virginia to fashion an environment to protect wildfowl.

Few original structures are remaining of the original work other than the mature dunes still protecting the land. While the work of the CCC was done in cooperation with various government bureaus, the federal refuge was established in 1937 when the Princess Anne Club (hunt club) was condemned with a total of 3,113.52 acres. The CCC Camp near Pungo was established April 12, 1938, as CC Company 3337 designated BF-1 (sometimes incorrectly located at Pongo rather than Pungo. According to one account by Lorraine Eaton, the Camp Pungo CCC program was part of the wider Outer Banks effort resulting in 115 miles of oceanfront dune and 600 miles of sand fences stabalizing the Banks.

New buildings have been added and most or all hunt club buildings along the oceanfront have been torn down. The Refuge was officially established by Executive Order No. 7907 on June 6, 1938. An official account in government report reads: “Before the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was acquired by the Federal government, the barrier beach was generally quite flat and sandy. The saline soils were unproductive. Periodically, northeast gales and hurricanes pushed large quantities of sea water across these flat beaches and into Back Bay. During the early 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built brush fences and planted cane and bulrush to catch the blowing sand, thus building and stabilizing sand dunes. Later on, sand fences of wood were built, and many of the dunes were planted to beach grass. These dunes protected the bayside flats and allowed a marsh to be established.

Historically, the Back Bay area has been known for its concentrations of wintering waterfowl and shore birds, along with numerous furbearers, especially muskrats. Although cattle were grazed on the barren beaches and on the very narrow strip of marsh adjacent to the bay, hunting and fishing were the principal land uses prior to the establishment of the Refuge. Hunting clubs were numerous, and the Ragged Island Club and the Princess Anne Club comprised the land that is now the Refuge. ”

The Back Bay Camp was originally part of the Bureau of Bilogical Survey which was at the time part of Department of Agriculture. Enrollees in the later stages helped to prepare buildings at Fort Story in Virginia Beach to receive National Guard and Selective Service troops, in addition to their work at the Refuge.

Today their dune work in Virginia spans all of False Cape State Park, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Sandbridge and Dam Neck military base, plus work remote work they accomplished at Cape Henry, part of Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek-Fort Story.

Source notes

Excerpted from the 1972 Refuge Master Plan. Anthony D. Leigh, “Station Management Plan, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia Beach, VA. Dated February 21, 1991, p. 1. Accessed July 25, 2023, at https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/DownloadFile/43957?Reference=4334.

Edward S. Slagle. Recalling the Civilian Conservation Corps: The History of the CCC. Revised edition, 2016, p. 142.

Harry A. Bailey, United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Biological Survey, Back Bay Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, Pungo, Virginia. July 21, 1938, p. 2. Accessed May 30, 2023, at www.ecos.fws.gov.

Lorraine Eaton, The Collector: A Life’s Story: Nellie Myrtle Midgette, accessed at http://www.oldnagshead.org/about-us.php on October 26, 2010.

N. B. Theberge, “1981 False Cape State Park: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Study: A Public Access Analysis. Special Reports in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SRAMSOE) No. 254, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, p. 14, 112 .

Site originally submitted by Dr. Robert Leland Baxter Jr. on May 12, 2024.

Location Info


4005 Sandpiper Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Virginia Beach City County

Coordinates: 36.67212, -75.91564

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One comment on “Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – Virginia Beach VA

  1. One of the old CCC barracks from the Pungo camp still exists on a farm adjacent to the old camp site. It was apparently relocated after the CCC camp shut down. This one, Long with other CCC barracks, were kits manufactured by Sears Roebuck Co.

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One comment on “Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – Virginia Beach VA

  1. One of the old CCC barracks from the Pungo camp still exists on a farm adjacent to the old camp site. It was apparently relocated after the CCC camp shut down. This one, Long with other CCC barracks, were kits manufactured by Sears Roebuck Co.

Join the Conversation

Please note:

  • We are not involved in the management of New Deal sites and have no information about visits, hours or rentals.
  • This page shows all the information we have for this site; if you have new information or photos to share, click the button above.

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