• An Assateague wild horse finding shelter in the dunes.

    Assateague Island

    National Seashore MD,VA

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  • Backcountry Camping Closures

    Pope Bay, Green Run, Pine Tree & Tingles Island backcountry campsites will be closed on these dates due to hunting seasons: October 15-25, 2014; November 13-15, 2014; November 29-December 13, 2014; January 16-19, 2015 More »

  • Virginia District - Over Sand Vehicle Zone (OSV) to Close at 4 pm, October 27 Due to Rocket Launch

    Virgina District OSV zone will be closed to everyone at 4 pm on October 27 and will re-open sometime after the launch window expires. More »


The ocean acts to constantly sculpt the shore by transporting sand to and from offshore areas and along the coastline itself. 23 kb

Sunrise over the Atlantic

John Collins

The Atlantic Ocean lies along the eastern side of Assateague Island, with the park's boundary extending ½ mile into its waters. The ocean acts to constantly sculpt the shore by transporting sand to and from offshore areas and along the coastline itself, and by occasionally washing sediments over the island and depositing them in the bay to the west.

Many animals living on Assateague depend on the ocean as a source of food. Gulls feed on the abundant fish and shellfish, as evidenced by debris from shells dropped onto rocks, roads, and boardwalks hard surfaces. Dolphins, too, hunt among the off-shore schools of fish, as do many commercial and recreational fishermen.


The oceans around Assateague contain vast amounts of plankton. Phytoplankton produces as much as 80% of the Earth’s oxygen and serves as the first level in marine food webs. Along with zooplankton, it provides a food source for organisms ranging in size from small fish and invertebrates up to huge, filter-feeding whales.

Sea turtle hatchlings from the Assateague Island beach in Virginia. 12 kb

Sea turtle hatchlings


Water temperature in the surrounding ocean fluctuates throughout the year. In winter temperatures dip to near 40 °F, while during a warm summer the water can reach into the middle to upper 70’s. As the temperature and weather conditions change, so do the animals inhabiting the offshore waters. Many species of fish, birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles migrate up and down the coast, following the most favorable conditions.

Did You Know?

Sea pork are orange, blob-like critters related to sea squirts. 5 kb

Animal, vegetable or mineral? These orange, blob-like critters are a colony of animals related to sea squirts. Their name, sea pork is thought to be derived from their close appearance to salt pork. When they are babies they have a notochord just like human embryos!