The best part about exploring abandoned ghost towns is the unfamiliar nostalgia that washes through visitors. There are remnants from the past - be it a building, furniture, or many even signs that life once existed there - that make it such a unique experience. In the case of Virginia's most intriguing ghost town, this is absolutely the case. It also happens to be the creepiest abandoned town in the state.
The Wash Woods Settlement is abundant in its history as it did evolve through the years, but it still remains one of False Cape State Park's most fascinating spots. Those hiking through its trails may stumble upon this town by accident or seek it out intentionally, but the result is always the same: one of intrigue and awe at the site of its abandoned ruins.
Virginia's Abandoned Woodland Town Of Wash Woods
For those just hearing about the settlement of Wash Woods, it might sound like a legend, akin to those about the New Jersey Devil or even the wild tales of Sasquatch sightings in the Pacific Northwest. On the contrary, the reality surrounding Wash Woods Settlement is, indeed, fact, and it weaves a story in False Cape National Park that draws hikers just to see its abandoned remnants for themselves.
- Fun Fact: Residents worked as fishermen, farmers, hunting guides, and merchants. However, the harsh, salty winds from the Atlantic made farming increasingly difficult for agriculture - thus, the name 'Wash Woods.'
The origins of this settlement are quite unusual and involve an Atlantic shipwreck. The story goes that the ship ran aground along the East Coast, thus leaving the survivors stranded until they settled in the area now known as False Cape State Park. The spot sits less than an hour from Virginia Beach which makes it even more unusual because it still feels so remote. Those who have been to the settlement, which has been empty for nearly a century now, were likely surprised at the fact that anyone could have dwelled there for so long considering its geographical complexities.
The land itself sits between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay, pinning it as a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. This area of the East Coast is prone to strong hurricanes and coastal weather, so it wasn't uncommon for much of the settlement to be washed away time and time again. With this being the case, roads didn't exist to the town, nor did any nearby civilizations - causing it to be incredibly remote despite the fact that it was only miles from the nearest settlement.
- Fun Fact: One thing that drew residents was the high quality of the soil found in Wash Woods, as well as the abundance of seafood.
With that being said, the town continued to draw residents. It's believed that during its earliest days, the settlement's buildings were constructed with pieces of the shipwreck that its residents floated to shore on. As time went on, the settlement grew into a town of roughly 300 residents; an astounding number for such a volatile piece of land. It wasn't until the 1930s that the final residents began moving out due to constant flooding. While access to the ocean was beneficial on a number of fronts, it was also quite devastating to the land and the town itself.
Eventually, the State of Virginia acquired the land and renamed it False Cape State Park.
Visiting False Cape State Park & The Wash Woods Settlement
Today, visitors can see still some of the building ruins that survived the test of time and the hurricanes that have swept through the area. Of those, the most recognizable is the church steeple from the old settlement, the graveyard with headstones that are still readable in some cases, the foundations of various buildings, and rusted boats that have been taken over by vegetation. Altogether, it paints quite an eerie scene but stands as a testament to those who lived in Wash Woods and lived to tell the tale.
How To Get To The Wash Woods Settlement
Although its history is intriguing enough to draw visitors, False Cape State Park is also one of the least-visited parks in the state. Reaching it isn't the easiest task, and there is no vehicular access. Therefore, visitors must have a plan to visit either on foot or via canoe or kayak. The closest one can get is from Interstate 64, by taking the route to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
- Tip: Once arriving at Sandpiper Road in the Community of Sandbridge, the entrance to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is roughly 4 miles ahead.
No matter how visitors visit Wash Woods, it's sure to be a historic - albeit, creepy - experience.