Assateague Island National Seashore
Assateague Island National Seashore is a protected area located on the Atlantic coast of Maryland and Virginia, in the United States. It was established in 1965 and encompasses over 37 miles of pristine beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and forests.
The island is known for its wild horses, which are believed to have been brought to the island by 17th-century colonists. The horses have adapted to the island's environment and roam freely throughout the park. Visitors can observe the horses from a safe distance but are prohibited from feeding or approaching them.
In addition to the wild horses, Assateague Island National Seashore is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, dolphins, and sea turtles. The park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, such as swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, and kayaking.
The park is open year-round, but visitor services are limited during the winter months. Entrance fees are charged per vehicle and provide access to both the Maryland and Virginia sides of the island. Camping and other amenities are available, but reservations are strongly recommended, especially during the peak season.
Following a five-hour drive through heavy traffic, we finally reached the entrance of the park. As is our custom, we took a photo op at the park entrance, a tradition we uphold at every state or national park we visit. We then proceeded to the visitor center to engage in conversation with the amiable rangers, collect park details, and receive suggestions on the essential spots to visit and hikes to take. Of course, we made sure to get our park passport stamped, a cherished memento of our travels.
Before setting up camp, we took a leisurely walk on the iconic Verrazano Bridge, which links Assateague Island to the mainland. The breathtaking views heightened our excitement for the adventure ahead.
Over the course of the subsequent three days, we stationed our trailer at the charming Bayside Campground, which offered breathtaking views and a serene atmosphere. Located in close proximity to the shimmering waters of the bay, the campground featured spacious and well-maintained sites with amenities such as, picnic tables, and fire rings, access to restrooms and shower facilities. The tranquil surroundings made for a peaceful and rejuvenating camping experience.
We were thrilled to spot the majestic wild ponies we had come to see during our visit. In fact, we were lucky enough to have some of them pass by our campground, which was an exciting experience.
The ponies of Assateague Island National Seashore are a famous and unique population of wild horses that inhabit Assateague Island. These ponies are often referred to as "Assateague ponies" or "Chincoteague ponies," named after the nearby town of Chincoteague in Virginia.
The Assateague ponies are believed to have descended from domesticated horses that were brought to the island by early settlers in the 17th century. Over time, these horses adapted to the harsh environment of the barrier island and developed into a hardy and wild population. Today, they are known for their small size, typically standing between 12 and 14 hands (48 to 56 inches) tall, and their distinctive markings, such as a thick mane and tail, and often a dorsal stripe along their backs.
The Assateague ponies are managed by the National Park Service, which oversees Assateague Island National Seashore. The herd is divided into two groups: the Maryland herd and the Virginia herd. The Maryland herd resides on the Maryland side of Assateague Island and is managed by the National Park Service, while the Virginia herd resides on the Virginia side of the island and is owned and managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
One of the most well-known events associated with the Assateague ponies is the annual Pony Swim and Auction held in Chincoteague, Virginia. During this event, the Virginia herd is rounded up, swum across a channel to Chincoteague Island, and then auctioned off to raise funds for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which uses the proceeds for various community projects.
The Assateague ponies are considered to be wild animals, and visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore are reminded to keep a safe distance and not to feed or approach the ponies. The National Park Service also conducts research and monitoring efforts to ensure the health and well-being of the ponies and their natural habitat. The ponies are an iconic symbol of Assateague Island National Seashore and are beloved by visitors and locals alike for their beauty and unique history.
Assateague Island has over 37 miles (60 kilometers) of seashore along the Atlantic coast, stretching across both Maryland and Virginia. This seashore includes pristine beaches, dunes, and salt marshes that provide a vital habitat for a variety of wildlife, including the famous wild horses that roam the island.
The weather at the beach was chilly and blustery, not ideal for a visit. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, we decided to take a stroll along the shore and watched our dogs' reactions as he gazed out at the tumultuous sea.
Life of the Marsh Trail
As we prepared to depart from the island, our final adventure was a leisurely stroll along the Life of the Marsh Trail. This scenic trail, offered us a chance to explore the captivating marsh ecosystem that defines this unique coastal area. From stunning vistas to wildlife encounters, it was a memorable way to end our trip before heading back home.
Departing from Island
After spending three days and two nights camping at Bayside Campground, it was time to bid farewell to Assateague Island National Seashore. We look forward to returning in the future, hopefully with more favorable weather conditions, allowing us to spend additional time enjoying the stunning beaches.