Pet Restrictions in Effect March 15 through Labor Day
Dogs/other pets (except for service animals) are not allowed in the wilderness or on any of Fire Island's federally owned oceanfront beaches from March 15 through Labor Day to help protect threatened and endangered beach-nesting shorebirds. More »
Backcountry Camping Permit and Access Procedures
Reservations for required permits must be obtained through www.recreation.gov. Due to the breach at Old Inlet, access to both east and west wilderness camping zones must now be from Watch Hill or points west, and involve a 1½ to 8 mile hike. More »
Attention Watch Hill Ferry Passengers
Due to channel conditions, delay or cancellation of ferry service between Patchogue and Watch Hill may occur. For updated ferry schedule information, please call 631-475-1665.
Life in the Sunken Forest: American Holly
Perhaps the most interesting and beautiful tree of the maritime forest is the American holly (Ilex opaca). It is an evergreen tree and retains its leaves year-round. These leaves are very pointy and waxy, which helps defend them from both animal browsers and the damaging salt carried by ocean breezes. Its berries, which turn red in early winter, are found only on female trees.
The hollies are the oldest known trees in the Sunken Forest, some having begun growing around the time of the American revolution. Holly is not found growing naturally much farther north of here, but on Fire Island the moderating effects of a maritime climate have enabled the tree to survive.
As you can see from this photo, the dense canopy formed by mature holly trees does not permit much sunlight to reach the forest floor, and this--combined with intensive browsing by white-tailed deer--has resulted in very few plants at ground level--the so-called understory.
Did You Know?
Tiny insectivorous plants called sundews (Drosera rotundifolia and D. intermedia) may be found in the low moist swales between dunes in the Fire Island wilderness area. Sundew gets its name from the glistening sticky substance on its leaves that traps ants and other small insects. More...