More Park Facilities Reopen During May 2013
Watch Hill and Sailors Haven marinas open May 10. Limited ferry service from Sayville to Sailors Haven resumes May 13 and ferries from Patchogue to Watch Hill start on May 18. Remaining park facilities to reopen by May 25, 2013. More »
Fire Island's Sunken Forest is a very 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 in 2001 as "globally rare" or "G1G2 S1" 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.
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.
The northern shoreline of the Sunken Forest has been threatened by erosion for many years, as the bayside lateral transport of sand is impacted by the hardened structures of the Sailors Haven Marina. In November 2011, as part of a bayside sediment process restoration project, material dredged from the Sailors Haven Marina channel was deposited on the bay shoreline to the west of the marina and north of the Sunken Forest Nature Trail boardwalk.
As Fire Island National Seashore continues to work on its new General Management Plan (GMP), more alternatives for protecting resources and providing for public enjoyment will be considered.
Ecological Studies of the Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, New York
Origin and History of Maple Bog in the Sunken Forest, Fire Island, New York
Sunken Forest Trail Guide (1977, revised 1988)
Did You Know?
The first Fire Island Lighthouse was built at the end of Fire Island in 1826. Today, the Fire Island Inlet is more than five miles west of this foundation. You can see the remnants of the first structure when you visit the present lighthouse, constructed in 1858. More...