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Assateague Island National Seashore

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Assateague Island National Seashore

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Wild pony on the beach

Assateague Island National Seashore [1] is a United States National Seashore that is located approximately 10 miles south of Ocean City in Maryland.



Assateague Island National Park was Established in 1943 the island has 14,000 acres of beach, a forest as well as saltwater marsh and freshwater marsh habitats, This habitat is home migratory birds plants and of course wild Ponies. Their are many different theories to how the ponies got to the Island, some say they are survivors of a shipwreck, but their is no evidence to support this. Others say that someone put the ponies over on the island so that they could avoid fencing laws.


More than half of Assateague Island National Seashore’s 48,000 acres is comprised of near-shore and estuarine waters, and the interplay between these waters and the barrier island affects nearly every aspect of life in this dynamic coastal environment.

The geography of the island itself is in a state of constant flux, continuously being reshaped by the elemental forces of wind and water. Powerful storms can dramatically alter the shoreline in a matter of hours, as waves wash over the beach and reshape the island from ocean to bay. Other forces sculpt the landscape in less obvious ways. Exposure to salt spray, lack of fresh water, and isolation from the mainland are subtle, but powerful influences on the Island’s species composition. Over time, these conditions have produced a community of plants and animals uniquely suited to the extremes found at the edge of the sea.

Flora and fauna

A sunset on the bayside wetlands looks beautiful, but bring bug repellant!

While Assateague’s wild horses are perhaps the island’s best-known inhabitants, other large mammals also roam the park, including the native white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the non-native sika deer (Cervus japonica), a diminutive species of Asian elk introduced to Assateague during the 1920’s.

Other inhabitants are less conspicuous than the large mammals. Seven species of frogs and toads depend on fresh water ponds in the center of the island for breeding, and a variety of snakes, such as the black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta), can be found across the forests, dunes, and marshes preying on rodents, small birds, or toads. Numerous invertebrates such as fiddler crabs (Uca ssp.) and mud snails (Nassarius ssp.) play key roles in maintaining the health of the island’s salt marshes. Even the seemingly barren beaches provide habitat for nocturnal ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and raccoons (Procyon lotor), who scavenge the crustaceans, fish, and other organic matter washed in by the tides.

Many bird species make their home on Assateague on a seasonal basis. Shorebirds by the tens of thousands depend upon the island’s protected foraging and resting areas during their twice-yearly transcontinental migrations. Each fall, large flocks of waterfowl such as snow geese (Chen caerulescens) begin arriving at Assateague where they will spend the winter traveling between the sheltered bay and salt marshes and fallow farm fields on the mainland.

Finally, the coastal waters that surround Assateague Island teem with animal life. The sheltered, nutrient rich waters of the estuary formed by the island provide ideal breeding and spawning habitat for many aquatic species, some of which, like the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), are commercially important to the local area. Each spring a variety of fish, including spot (Leiostomus xanthrurus), Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) and summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) migrate into the estuary to breed. Later, the juvenile fish provide an abundant food source for birds, marine mammals, and larger fish.


Summers are generally hot and humid. It rarely snows in the winter but there is often a damp cold. In 2010 there was a heavy snow storm, causing the horses to starve and the firefighters had to take hay to them.

Get in


Entrance fees are $3 for individuals on foot or $10 for private vehicles. Both fees are good for seven days. A $30 annual pass is available, allowing free entry for one year. The $80 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is valid at all national parks and allows free entry for one year.

Get around

The park service allows 4x4s to drive on the beach with a seasonal permit (predominantly used by locals), which unfortunately will spoil any thoughts you had of a pristine walk on an unspoiled beach, or for that matter, peaceful, isolated beach camping. Edward Abbey would be appalled.


The Assateague Light house was built in 1833 and is 142 feet tall, it was first lit in January 1833. On October 1 1867 A new lens was put in and it could be seen for up to nineteen miles. This lighthouse is now only open a few times a year for tours.

The wildlife and wild ponies- Bird watching is one of the popular activity in Assaeague, but people mostly come to see the wild ponies. Their are many different theories to how the ponies got to the Island, some say they are survivors of a shipwreck, but their is no evidence to support this. Others say that someone put the ponies over on the island so that they could avoid fencing laws.

Pony Penning day- On the last Thursday in July thousands of tourist come to watch the "Saltwater Cowboys" swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. One of the best ways to see the Wild Ponies swim is on a Scenic Boat Tour.


On Assateague Island there are many activities to keep one occupied. First off there is the beach where many people can come to and enjoy. People can also camp on either the beach side or the bay side in the Federal part of the park. Throughout the Federal side of the park there are many feral horses, white tailed and sika deer, red foxes and many other types of animals that can be seen while on the road, beach or one of the many trails. On the bay side people can rent out kayaks and canoes, while there is off road driving to the South. Also on the bay side there are places where a person can try to catch blue crab, and many mussels.


On the last thursday in julyIs Pony Penning day and an auction is held to sel wild ponies from Assiteague. They do this to make sure the ponies do not over populate the island. Many tourist love to watch the auctions as well as see the "salt water cowboys" swim the herd from Assateague to Chincoteague.



Assateague has sinks and water fountains next to each bathroom. The water is perfectly safe to drink.

Campers are permitted to bring their own alcoholic beverages. Those under 21 should be exceedingly discreet, however, as the Park Police have recently begun cracking down on underage drinking, and those under 21 caught in possession of alcohol can expect a hefty fine ($300).


Miss Mollys Inn [2] At our Chincoteague bed and breakfast you will find that our warm and inviting parlor is just the place to curl up with a good book, chat, play board games or just sit by the fire. 4141 Main Street, Chincoteague, VA 23336 757-336-6686 800-221-5620



Oceanside Drive-in: Tents, trailers and recreational vehicles (no hookups). Sites have a picnic table and an upright grill.

Oceanside Walk-in: Tent-only sites, located 100-200 feet from centralized parking areas. Sites have a picnic table and an upright grill.

Bayside Drive-in: Tents, trailers and recreational vehicles (no hookups). "Generator-Free Zone" available. Sites have a picnic table and ground fire grill.

Group Camping: Organized clubs and affiliated groups must use group campsites. Tent-only sites, located 100-200 feet from centralized parking area. Sites have a picnic table and an upright grill. Group campsites are available for reservations year round at $30 per night per site.


Stay safe

Mosquitos and ticks are abundant from spring through autumn. Insect repellent and/or protective clothing is highly recommended.

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!