• 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 »

Natural Features & Ecosystems

Area map showing Fire Island and Long Island.

NPS Map

Fire Island is a 32-mile-long barrier island lying on the continental shelf off the southeastern coast of Long Island, New York. Averaging less than a mile in width, the island is bordered by Fire Island Inlet to the west and Moriches Inlet to the east, and is separated from Long Island by the Great South Bay, Patchogue and Bellport bays, Narrow Bay and Moriches Bay. To its south is the vast Atlantic Ocean.
 
Woman looks over dunes and beach to rough ocean surf.

Every time you gaze out over the ocean, you're likely to see a slightly different scene. The barrier beach and island is a constantly changing, dynamic environment.

Fire Island National Seashore consists of 26 miles (42 km) of Fire Island itself (See Park Map), and includes portions of the adjacent estuary and ocean within its boundaries. The Seashore's William Floyd Estate, on mainland Long Island at Mastic Beach, protects additional habitat as it stretches from the tidal marshes along the Narrow and Moriches bays to the woodlands and grounds around the old Manor House, almost 1½ miles inland and at elevations as high as 15 feet above mean sea level.

While Fire Island is not a uniformly natural barrier island system, a variety of natural features and ecosystems are managed by the National Park Service at Fire Island National Seashore.
National Park Service policy stipulates that natural coastal processes be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
 
Aerial view of Fire Island shoreline in front of communities.

Seventeen preexisting communities lie within the boundaries of Fire Island National Seashore. The effects of human impacts on the Long Island coast over the past century or more have altered the barrier beach and dunes and the natural sediment transport processes.

The National Park Service is responsible for critical coastal habitat for many rare and endangered species, as well as migratory corridors for birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. Within its boundaries, the Seashore also protects vital coastal wetlands, essential to water quality, fisheries, and the biological diversity of coastal, nearshore and terrestrial environments.

These resources are valuable economically and environmentally. Fisheries, recreation, navigation, clean water, protection from storm damages—these are a few of the values placed on Fire Island National Seashore's natural features and ecosystems.

 
Multiple sand spits at end of island.

The sand on Fire Island moves mainly in a westerly direction toward Fire Island Inlet.

However, the chain of barrier islands and sand spits that includes Fire Island is a sand-starved system, dominated by highly dynamic processes and struggling to maintain its integrity in the face of sea-level rise and storms.

Waves, tides, currents, overwash, barrier breaching and relative sea level change are all natural processes that are critical to the formation and evolution of barrier islands, sand dunes, sand flats, lagoons and vegetated wetlands.

 

Learn More

To help you better understand the natural resources of Fire Island National Seashore, you may want to learn more about coastal geology:

 
 

A series of Science Synthesis Papers was published in 2005 to support the preparation of a General Management Plan for Fire Island National Seashore.

 

Additional Natural Resources Reports and Technical Reports are also produced by the National Park Service.

Other recent research and publications that address the natural features and ecosystems of Fire Island include:

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting comprehensive research to identify, evaluate and recommend long-term solutions for hurricane and storm damage reduction for homes and businesses within the floodplain extending along 83-miles of ocean and bay shorelines from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point. This study area includes the shoreline of Fire Island National Seashore.

NOAA Ocean & Coastal Resource Management:

Did You Know?

PWC passes a green channel marker in bay near wooded shoreline and salt marsh.

The use of personal watercraft (PWCs or JetSkis) is restricted within the boundaries of Fire Island National Seashore. While not permitted at National Park Service facilities or near shorelines, PWCs may use the marked channels to access some of the Fire Island communities. More...