• Miles of uncrowded white sandy beaches extend to the horizon, separating the clear blue ocean and undulating grass-covered dunes.

    Fire Island

    National Seashore New York

Coasts / Shorelines

During powerful storms waves carry sand across the island resulting in overwash fans.

Beaches Are Constantly on the Move
Barrier islands are constantly on the move. Wind and water carry sand to and from our ocean and bay beaches, shifting the shoreline on a daily basis.

Shoreline science helps the National Park Service better understand the movement of sand along our dynamic shores, and is central to our goal of protecting Fire Island National Seashore for future generations. Learn more about coastal research at Fire Island.


Barrier Island Evolution
Storms drive the slow rolling over of the barrier island upon itself, like a conveyor belt of sand slowly inching northward. But even on a daily basis, the wind and waves are shaping and reshaping the shoreline. These daily changes are mostly gradual and barely perceptible and, oftentimes it isn't until the beach as we know it is dramatically transformed that we take note.

After Hurricane Sandy struck on October 29, 2012, for instance, the changes to the barrier beach were hard to overlook. The history-making hurricane brought with it high water levels and large waves that scoured sand from the dunes and beach face. In some places, the force of moving water pushed sand over the top of dunes and across the width of the island.

While storms can result in drastic landscape change virtually overnight, these larger-scale shifts also serve as a reference point from which we can observe smaller more gradual shifts in our shoreline. Whether slow or sudden, subtle or obvious, natural landscape change is certain and is an integral part of the evolution of the barrier island.


Learn More
You can find more information about the natural processes that shape barrier islands at the links below.

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