I was determined to get to Chesapeake’s Northwest River Park in Virginia before it closed down for the winter. After only BARELY making it (and in such a huff that I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy it), here are my thoughts on this place and what you can expect as a camper. Of course, that assumes you survive the drive to get there…
View from the best camper site in the park, Site 1.
How To Get To Northwest River Park And Not Die
Man, shoot. I grew up in the country. I know how to handle back roads, but good-googly-moogly, this road had some of everything.
- Tight, hairpin twists with blind turns
- Random kids, deer, dogs, and things still as yet unidentified running across the road
- Locals driving 72 miles per hour while you clutch the wheel pray for a glorious death
- Ditches so deep they lead to the netherworld.
And for the sake of your family and dogs, don’t dare go down there during the rain. Don’t you do it. You’ll make the nightly news and not in a good way. Indian Creek Road is low as crap and when it rained EVEN A LITTLE, the ditches couldn’t keep up. If rain is in the forecast, go somewhere else. It pains me to say that because the ranger was so nice (and even gave me a sticker, because I’m 12 inside), but I cannot recommend this place in the rain. So when you go in the middle of summer to avoid the rain (and I’m certain you’ll need a metric ton of bug repellent), plug this address into your GPS:
1733 Indian Creed Road -Chesapeake, VA 23322
Turn off your radio, tell everyone in the car to shut up, and roll down your windows. The screeching of tires may be the only signal that someone is speeding towards you around that next blind turn.
What’s Camping At Northwest River Park Like?
Empty, lol. Then again, I went there on the last day. The good thing is that it gave me time to walk around to many of the lots without being a creeper. So, here’s what’s up. Lots 1 and 2 are in awesome positions with plenty of privacy. Other than that, sites 3, 27, 29, 45, 47, 44, 51 look good for those needing electric hookups. Everything else is really-omg-too-dang-close-scrunched-together-back-off-man. So, shoot for those. You can get an electric site for under $30. CHEAP, RIGHT?
Almost all of the non-electric sites are off to themselves on the second loop (except for two on either side of the cabins). Of this lot, 63, 65, 68 have the most privacy.
Big Ol’ Class A Folks
Your pickings for pull-through sites are slim: 4, 13, 18, 21, 31, 48. But honestly, your biggest hassle will be getting there in the first place. It’s a long, freaking winding road to get there – see more above on what to expect. And good luck, man.
What To See and Do At Northwest River Park
First, go see the ranger. They’re nice folks with good stickers. Beyond that, the park has:
- An equestrian area
- Boat launches and several fishing piers
- Day use picnic sites
- Disc golf
- Mini golf (this looked a little rough)
- At least three playgrounds that I saw
- Tons of little bridges that provide great lookout/photography points
- And if you are a stargazer, time your visit to coincide with one of their monthly astronomy nights.
Let’s Talk About Those Trails
This place has PLENTY of (short) trails to choose from. The longest is the Indian Creek Trail at a whopping 2.50 miles. This is the one you want to go on since a good chunk of this loop was used for moonshining during Prohibition. So far, they’ve found about 30 of those illegal still sites. While you’re out there, be on the lookout for the Christmas Fern – its leaves look like little green Christmas stockings.
For a chance of spotting some playful otters, try the Otter Point Trail. It’s only about a mile long. I had no luck, but the massive bald cypress trees made a great consolation prize.
The other two walking trails are fine…I guess. I mean, the Molly Mitchell Trail (2 miles) wasn’t bad, but certainly not SUPER-DUPER-AMAZEBALLS. And as for the Marjorie Rein Walkway, it was closed.
There are also two hike/bike trails: Deer Island – which runs near the primitive camping area – and the Shuttle Trail – which is your main hub. There you’ll find restrooms, the dock, everything.
The Molly Mitchell trail is the suggested handicap accessible trail, although see my comment above. You will definitely see some water ducks. As for otter spotting: Me 0, Otters 2. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
The Main Station (the only manned station that I saw), had a nice sized ramp and wide entrances to both the main doors and restrooms. There was plenty of space to move around a large wheelchair inside of the (freakishly sparse) store. Ditto for the bathrooms/showers in the campsite.
If you are bringing in an RV/Camper/Van, site 20 on the campground is the only campsite noted as being wheelchair friendly.
Will I be back?
Absolutely. The place really was lovely and I’m sad I didn’t get to see it full of people. There’s something about camping around a big crowd of folks who get it. Rest assured, as soon as they open up for the new season, I’ll be there.