Destination :: Assateague Island National Seashore

  • Assateague: A chestnut pony scratches itself on a bare tree trunk. The inlet and mainland are visible behind.

    Assateague Pony. July 2005. Image 1/6

  • Assateague: View along a white, sandy beach; a wooden fence parallels the ocean, which is just visible on the right.

    Beach and Sand Fence. July 2005. Image 2/6

  • Assateague: The gray, weathered ruins of a wooden boat lie in a grass-and-sand clearing, with weeds growing through the wood.

    Ruins of a Wooden Boat. July 2005. Image 3/6

  • Assateague: A deer grazes in a grassy area while a second deer lies down nearby.

    Deer. July 2005. Image 4/6

  • Assateague: The head and front leg of a chestnut and white pinto pony grazing in a campground.

    Assateague Pony. July 2005. Image 5/6

  • Assateague: A wooden boardwalk runs straight from the camera view. Tall, green grass runs along each side of the path.

    Boardwalk. July 2005. Image 6/6

Assateague Island is famous for its herds of feral ponies, thanks to Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague stories. According to popular legend, the first ponies survived a shipwreck and were marooned on the island.1

Today, the 37-mile barrier island offshore of Maryland and Virginia is protected and maintained for public use by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maryland State Parks.2

Brief History

Pre-Colonialization
The Pocomoke, Annamessex, Manokin, Nassawattex, Acquintica, Assateague, Chincoteague, and Kicotanks native tribes inhabit the area. Villages are established on the mainland; barrier islands, including Assateague and Chincoteague, are used for hunting and gathering.3
1614
The first European colonists settle on Assateague.4
Late 1600s
Colonists on the mainland pasture horses on the barrier islands to avoid fencing laws and livestock taxes.
August 1933
A storm-created inlet separates Assateague Island from Fenwick Island.
1950s
Plans begin to build a resort called "Ocean Beach."
March 1962
A storm devastates the island, making it clear it cannot support permanent habitation.
September 21, 1965
Assateague Island National Seashore is authorized.5
February 28, 1973
Virginia adds the Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station to the Virginia Landmarks Register.6
July 10, 1992
The park boundary changes.7
November 2, 2015
Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station is added to the National Register of Historic Places.8

Location

7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, Maryland, 21811
United States

Website

Evaluation

Once or Twice is Enough

The island was surprisingly uncrowded for my visit, despite being the middle of summer. Although I ran into a few people wherever I went, I was generally able to find relative solitude on both the beach and the trails.  The ponies were clearly extremely acclimated to people and accustomed to being fed treats, which I was disappointed to see. It was an enjoyable stay, and I would revisit if I were in the area, but I would not plan a trip specifically to see the island again.

Visits: 1 Visited: July 2005

Quick Statistics

Size
41,346+ acres9
Trails
37 miles of beaches + short trails
Visitors
2,267,821 (2016)10

Notes

  1. According to the much less romantic National Park Service, the ponies were likely pastured on the islands by mainlanders in the late 1600s in an effort to avoid livestock fencing laws and taxes ("Assateague's Wild Horses," NPS).
  2. Unless otherwise noted, information about the park and park history is from "History and Culture," NPS.
  3. Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station, NPS.
  4. Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station, NPS.
  5. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  6. Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station, NPS.
  7. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  8. "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form," United States Department of Interior.
  9. Listing of Acreage, NPS Stats.
  10. Annual Visitation Report, NPS Stats.

References

  • Annual Visitation Report by Years: 2006 to 2016. NPS Stats. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.
  • Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station, Assateague Island National Seashore. NPS Cultural Landscapes Inventory. 2004. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.
  • "Assateague's Wild Horses." Assateague Island National Seashore. National Park Service. Accessed October 6, 2017. Link.
  • "History and Culture." Assateague Island National Seashore. National Park Service. May 23, 2017. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • Listing of Acreage (Summary). NPS Stats. December 31, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • The National Parks: Index 2012-2016. National Park Service. 2016. Accessed November 16, 2017. Link.
  • "National Register Historic Places Registration Form." United States Department of Interior. Via Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.