• 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

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • 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.

Sunken Forest

A park ranger leads a tour of the Sunken Forest.
In the heart of the Sunken Forest, it's hard to image you're so close to the  Atlantic Ocean on a narrow barrier island, where growing condtions are harsh, at best. This special forest is comprised of a rare assemblage of plants.
 

Fire Island's Sunken Forest is a rare ecological community. The Maritime Holly Forest is only found behind well-established sand dunes along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Massachusetts. It is one of six forest types recognized in the National Vegetation Classification System. According to the New York Natural Heritage Program, this state's maritime holly forest was ranked as "globally rare," meaning there are few remaining occurrences of this assemblage of plants throughout the world.

Today you can easily visit this rare habitat from May to October, when ferries run from Sayville to Sailors Haven. Throughout the year you may stroll along the boardwalk, although facilities (restrooms) and other services are not available when ferry service is not operating.

 
Bronze marker embedded into reddish stone beside trail.

"A Primeval Holly Forest: A sanctuary for wildlife; A field for study by scientist and lover of nature, a retreat for the refreshment of the human spirit. Enter here to enjoy but not to injure or destroy." 

The Sunken Forest Preserve
First protected from development in the early 1950s by a concerned group of private citizens, a 50-acre tract of beach, dunes and ancient holly forest just east of Point O'Woods was gradually cobbled together through a fundraising campaign spearheaded in 1952 by the Wildlife Preserves, Inc, and The Nature Conservancy. Sunken Forest Sanctuary was officially dedicated as the Sunken Forest Preserve in 1960. The entrance plaque can still be seen along the western trail entrance.

In May 1966, the Sunken Forest Preserve, Inc. donated the property to the recently established (1964) Fire Island National Seashore, under the condition that the property shall always be maintained in its natural state and operated as a sanctuary, and that no public road or highway shall be built through it.

 
Cover of booklet, Ecological Studies of the Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, New York.

Learn More

Ecological Studies of the Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, New York
Henry Warren Art, 1976

Origin and History of Maple Bog in the Sunken Forest, Fire Island, New York
Leslie A. Sirkin, 1972

Sunken Forest Trail Guide (1977, revised 1988)
Although the trail numbers have been rearranged and some of the scientific names have changed, this out-of-print booklet includes a lot of good information for study. Visit the Sunken Forest and compare the plants and animals you can see today with those identified in this booklet, and you may be able to see how some conditions have changed over the past twenty years.

 

Did You Know?

Hike in light clothing walks down sandy trail through dense shrubs.

You can hike into New York State's only federally-designated wilderness area on Fire Island. Day trips into the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness provide an opportunity to sample the sensation of being miles away from civilization. More...