Boating benefits at Bennett’s Creek

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bennett’s Creek Park has been a popular destination this summer, thanks in part to the park’s convenient access for boaters.

Suffolk park superintendent J.R. Ruggiero estimated that the park averaged about 10 boats each weekday since the beginning of June, and 25 on Saturday and Sunday each. That amounts to roughly 1,500 uses of the four public access boat ramps that allow travel on the creek toward the Nansemond River.

“We get people from all over Suffolk, Hampton Roads and Virginia, and several from North Carolina,” Ruggiero said.

Email newsletter signup

Most of these ramp users launch from the ramps for rockfish, croaker, catfish, perch and other common fish in the Nansemond River, Ruggiero said. There’s also pleasure boaters that simply go out there for the scenery.

“I think it’s been a positive, getting people out and enjoying nature,” said H.S. South, educational officer with Nansemond River Power Squadron and a resident on Bennett’s Creek. “It’s a large river, but’s it’s not too large, and you can always find some calm water.”

The ramps remain the only official entry point free of charge for travel to the 19.1-mile-long Nansemond River. Along with the addition of a fourth boat ramp, the fishing pier at the park was completely renovated, creating even more of a draw for fishermen, Ruggiero said.

“That’s a whole different animal,” he said. “We’ve got so many different people that come to fish on the pier without boats.”

South has been a resident on the creek for more than 30 years. He and his wife raised their two sons, Taylor — now a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy — and Hunter, on the creek. He said his younger son has a 13-foot Whaler boat, while the older has a craft about 16 feet long that dates back to 1946.

South had acquired that boat when he was 6 years old.

“I kind of built them into the boating community,” he said.

Ruggiero offered advice for boaters this fall season to prepare them for falling temperatures.

He recommended bringing a dry bag with spare clothes in case anyone falls overboard, especially as temperatures drop and hypothermia becomes a bigger risk. Lights, whistles, flares and a radio are all standard items that should also be stored on board.

Peak hurricane season will come with that temperature drop, Ruggiero said, and boaters should be aware of forecasts.

“When you’re on big water like the Nansemond, things change real quick,” he said.

Visit for more information on regulations and safety requirements based on boat sizes.