• 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

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  • New Backcountry Camping procedures

    Reservations for required permits must be obtained through Recreation.gov. Due to the breach at Old Inlet, access to both east and west wilderness camping zones must now be from Davis Park or access points west, and involve a 2½ to 10 mile hike. More »

Monitoring the Breach at Old Inlet

Monitoring breach at Old Inlet on January 4, 2013
The breach at Old Inlet, a channel that allows water to flow freely from ocean to bay, is a dynamic landscape feature located within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness on Fire Island. National Park Service staff continue to monitor the breach, recording its shoreline position at low tide.
While storm events and breaches are part of a barrier island's natural processes and breaches can provide ecological benefits, decisions about the breach must be balanced by concerns that the breach may exacerbate flooding in adjacent communities of Long Island's south shore. Monitoring of the breach at Old Inlet began within 48 hours of Hurricane Sandy. The State University of New York at Stony Brook, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and other coastal experts continue to regularly monitor conditions of the breach (breach shoreline position, depth, and tidal exchange), and water levels and water quality in the Great South Bay.

Breach Shoreline Position
The location of the breach has been monitored at least weekly since the breach opened to determine if the breach is migrating or widening. Mapping-grade GPS shoreline position data is collected by walking the east and west boundaries of the breach within 2 hours of ocean low tide. Paired measurement of the east and west breach boundaries (generally collected on consecutive dates) identify the location as well as the width of the breach.
Photo showing position of the breach at Old Inlet between September 17 and October 22, 2013.

Breach Depth and Tidal Exchange
Physical surveys have been conducted in the breach to determine the depth and cross-sectional area of the breach as well as tidal exchange through the breach.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Division staff have conducted physical surveys of the Old Inlet breach. More information can be found at: Evaluation of a barrier-island breach created by Hurricane Sandy at Fire Island National Seashore, NY (USGS)

Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has also completed physical surveys of the breach.

Water Levels and Water Quality in the Great South Bay
Stony Brook University's School of Atmospheric Sciences (SoMas) has been collecting water level, salinity and water temperature data throughout the Great South Bay as part of its Great South Bay Project. This monitoring network includes a station at Bellport, New York, approximately 2.7 miles northwest of the Old Inlet breach. The Bellport station, which was established in 2004, is being used to evaluate the effects of the breach at Old Inlet. Monitoring so far shows that since Hurricane Sandy, tide levels recorded at Bellport have returned to pre-Sandy conditions.


Monitoring Results for the Old Inlet Breach
Breach monitoring data indicates that:

  1. The breach is dynamic; historically on Fire Island, breaches in this area have opened and closed over time.
  2. Water levels and tidal range in eastern Great South Bay returned to normal soon after Hurricane Sandy. Monitoring of water levels throughout the Great South Bay indicate that the breach has not contributed to elevated water levels or flooding. The open breach has not changed tidal amplitude (distance between the height of high and low tide) in proximity to the breach, but tidal phase (timing of high and low tide) in areas of the Great South Bay proximate to the breach has changed by about 20 minutes.
  3. Water exchange between the ocean and bay has increased in eastern Great South Bay, but the flushing rate has not been quantified.
  4. Extensive shoaling has occurred within the breach, as well as in the Great South Bay just north of the breach, and in the Atlantic Ocean south of the breach.

The National Park Service (NPS) will continue to work with its partners to monitor the breach, ensuring that data is available to inform management decisions. No monitoring results to date have triggered the immediate closure of the breach.

An environmental assessment (EA) was conducted in 1995 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Breach Contingency Plan (BCP). The NPS has determined that a more comprehensive analysis is currently required to evaluate breach management options in the Seashore, in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Park managers at Fire Island National Seashore have requested funding for this analysis. The National Park Service will use this more comprehensive environmental analysis to determine the appropriate actions for the long-term management of the breach at Old Inlet.


Did You Know?

Hundreds of small, round, pearly-pink eggs lie scattered at water's edge beside horseshoe crab molt..

Horseshoe crabs come near shore on the full moon in May and June to lay thousands of eggs, which are a valuable food source for migrating shorebirds in spring and early summer. Occasionally, a perfectly-formed horseshoe crab molt can be found on the beach, shed as the young animal grows. More...