Visitors to Virginia’s Kiptopeke State Park, at the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, have long enjoyed its outdoor facilities. These include the delightful beach as well as the boat ramp, campsites, cabins, fishing pier, and hiking trails. Now, there is an indoor addition that helps explain what you might encounter in the water or along the trails.
Kiptopeke means “Big Water” in the native Accawmacke language. And that is the name of the just- opened visitor center. The Big Water Visitor Center contains educational displays that document the park’s human history, as well as its ecosystems. There is a small salt-water aquarium that will reveal what lies beneath the waves in the Chesapeake Bay, just down the hill.
According to Sean Dixon, the Superintendent at Kiptopeke, “The Big Water Visitor Center has been in the works for a long time. Through a combination of state funding and donations, the center is finally open.”
On the inside, the center has exhibits of the various land and aquatic critters you might encounter in the park. The east wall is dedicated to the pollinators who are responsible for the reproduction of most nearby plants. No pollinators means no fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Speaking of flowers, all those you see outside the center are native. More will be planted soon.
The aquarium was still in testing mode when Bay Bulletin visited on June 5. According to Vonita Brown, a volunteer in the center, “We just opened Memorial Day weekend. We have a few small shrimp and fish in the aquarium to make sure all is working well. We should be adding larger fish, from local waters, any time this week.”
Also in the works is an outdoor stage. According to Dixon, “The stage will be made from a deadrise work boat that was donated to the park. It will be one-of-a-kind, and should be open by the end of the season.”
If you are traveling along the Eastern Shore this season, be sure to stop in. Kiptopeke State Park is less than 4 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel toll booths. The visitor center is located a few seconds off Rt. 13 at the well-marked entrance to the park. Currently, the center is open Fridays through Sunday, but should be open every day of the week as soon as it is fully staffed. (Virginia State Parks are hiring now, if you’d like a very picturesque office setting!)
Admission for visitors is free. There is more information at dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/kiptopeke.