Some people say Owl Creek; some call it Owls or Owl’s Creek. By whatever spelling, Owls Creek and its public boat ramp are vital resources for Virginia Beach residents and visitors. In the early days, this part of Virginia Beach was comprised of marshlands with a narrow channel that conveyed rain and tidal waters into the ocean. Attempts were made to drain the marsh for development, but it wasn’t until the 1950s, when the area was mined for sand to replenish the beach, that the linked water bodies of Owls Creek, Lake Rudee, Lake Wesley and Rudee Inlet were dredged. Neighborhoods sprang up along the waterways, but woods and wetlands here continue to provide habitat for birds and animals, including foxes, herons, pelicans and eagles. Depending on the season, speckled trout, flounder, striped bass and a host of other saltwater species cycle through the waters between the creek and the mouth of the inlet.
Since the public boat ramp was renovated in the 1990s, flocks of sportsmen and women have taken advantage of the access it provides to inland waters and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Motorized boats are launched from the ramp and head out for deep sea and inshore fishing. Kayakers and paddleboarders tour the basin or leave through the inlet to catch waves. The Rudee Inlet II, a small dredge that works to keep the inlet open, motors into and out of the creek, as do Navy vessels that are launched nearby. Some of the wooded property that lines the creek is privately owned, and some belongs to the Navy. Fortunately, approximately 100 acres are being preserved for recreation in the City’s new Marshview Park, where construction of trails and other facilities began in June.
On a recent Friday afternoon, I walked the mile from my house to Owls Creek to see what was going on. The boat ramp was hopping with activity. In one lane, a young man and woman were putting kayaks – tricked out with fishing poles – into the water. In another lane, a water sports outfitter was loading paddleboards into a van at the end of a group excursion. In the parking lot, a jet ski owner was securing his watercraft to its trailer. Out on the water, a fishing boat was returning from the ocean, and a small skiff was floating along the bank, its occupant casting a line. Before long, a kayak powered by pedals and adorned with a pirate flag slipped up to the dock. As the sun set across the water, two beautiful golden retrievers on leashes appeared to be enjoying the fresh air. Owls Creek is adjacent to General Booth Boulevard near the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, approximately half a mile from the resort area. It’s a worthwhile destination, with or without a boat.
Photo credits: Katherine Jackson