Hidden within False Cape State Park on the Virginia coast lie the overgrown ruins of Wash Woods, a small but thriving settlement that’s been abandoned for over 80 years. Little is known about this mysterious ghost town, but many say it was founded by the survivors of a shipwreck that washed up on this remote section of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and decided to make it home.
It was a strange place to build a community. The coastal settlement was frequently “washed” by the area’s extreme storms. The secluded village had no roads in or out, and was many miles away from the nearest population. It’s believed the sailors built houses and a local church with items salvaged from the wrecked ship, which was carrying lumber.
The town grew when the U.S. established a couple Life-Saving Service stations (a precursor to the Coast Guard) nearby, and servicemen and their families lived in Wash Woods. The town was home to about 300 people at its height around the turn of the century.
The closing of service stations and a particularly bad hurricane caused the population to dwindle, and Wash Woods was a ghost town by the 1930s. Today, what’s left of the settlement is an eerie place. All that remains are a disembodied church steeple, some building foundations, overgrown rusted boats, and several headstones from the old cemetery, peeking out from under the moss.
Know Before You Go
False Cape is one of the least-visited Virginia state parks because it is so tricky to access. Reaching Wash Woods requires traveling on foot, bike, or canoe for miles through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, or catching a Terra-Gator or shuttle from the park itself. You really need to work out how to get there before you visit.
And one other thing: The area is home to many resident venomous snakes, and it is likely you will see them sunning themselves on the trails, and even the beach. You can camp at this park, but again, you really need to work out the details when you call to reserve your primitive site.