• 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 »

Sand Dunes

Summer beach with dunes in background.

Some of Fire Island's primary dunes east of Watch Hill are as high as 40 feet. Most of the primary dune line on the island, however, is much smaller. Behind many of the primary dunes lies a series of crescent-shaped secondary dunes, with a low interdunal swale in between.

Dunes are critical to the health and sustainability of sandy beaches. The primary dune ridge (foredunes) lies adjacent to the shoreline. Secondary dune fields may lie further inland. Dunes may form anywhere that eolian processes (wind transportation) occur.

Dunes provide much-needed protection to back-barrier environments (including human development) against severe wave, wind, and storm events. In addition, these geomorphic features provide critical habitat to a variety of migratory birds and mammals.


The rhizomes and rootlets of American beach grass help hold together the grains of sand that make up this eroded dune.

Dune vegetation is very important for the formation and stabilization of dune complexes on barrier islands. Both the root system and exposed vegetation restrict sand movement around plants, helping to secure the dune.

Beach grass sprout on white sand beach.

Beach grass sprout emerges from end of the plant's rhizome.

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Additional print-quality PDF images are available:

Primary Dune Line looking east, 8" x 6" print

Eroded Dune, 8" x 6" print

Close-up of Eroded Dune with Beach Grass Rootlets with sand and rootlets, 8" x 6" print

Close-up of Sand and Beach Grass Rootlets, 8" x 6" print

Beach Grass, 4" x 3" print

Beach Grass Sprout, 4" x 3" print

Sand Fencing on Foredune, view from Robert Moses State Park looking toward Fire Island Lighthouse, 4 " x 3"

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...