The Assateague Island visitor center (MD), the Toms Cove Visitor Center (VA) and the Ranger Station (MD) are currently closed in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. If our facility closures continue into the month of April, we will continue to honor those OSV permits expiring in March, but for no other previous months. If the closures extend in May, we would continue to honor those OSV permits that expired in March and April, and so on, if closures continue. Expired OSV permits with expiration months prior to March, 2020 will not be recognized as valid. Visitors wishing to renew expired permits will need to wait until the visitor contact stations reopen. We appreciate your patience during this time.
Virginia District OSV Status
The Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone at Assateague Island National Seashore contains miles of unspoiled beaches managed by the National Park Service to accommodate OSV enthusiasts and other beach goers.
OSV permits are issued for a year from the month of purchase. The permit fee ranges from $70 to $150, depending upon the type of access desired. All vehicles using the OSV zone must display a valid OSV Permit. Upon signing the registration for the OSV permit, operators accept responsibility for knowing and following all OSV regulations. Please watch our OSV video for driving tips.
At Assateague Island National Seashore we strive to provide you with a safe and enjoyable over-sand vehicle (OSV) experience. Regulations and equipment requirements are necessary for your safety and the safety of other visitors and National Park Service staff. Changing beach conditions, vehicle breakdowns, and human judgement errors may occasionally result in over-sand vehicles becoming stuck and needing assistance. In these instances, National Park Service staff can: Assist with removing sand from around the tires. Deflate tires. Use traction devices such as boards. Make a phone call on your behalf to friends/family. Provide information regarding local towing services. National Park Service staff cannot: Winch or pull the vehicles out, or recommend a towing company.
Motor vehicles are permitted only within established roads, parking areas and designated Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) routes. Use of motor vehicles in designated Over-Sand Vehicle Zones is at the operator’s own risk. The following OSV Use Regulations are established to provide for enjoyment of the park and to protect the barrier island’s fragile resources. Upon signing the OSV Permit application, permitee accepts responsibility to know and follow all OSV regulations. Failure to comply with the terms of the Permit, including these regulations, may result in revocation of a valid OSV permit and/or federal prosecution. All applicable State and Federal laws will be enforced. Violations should be reported to Law Enforcement by calling 911. Please contact appropriate Seashore or Refuge personnel with any questions.
Permits: Vehicles using the OSV zone must display a permanently affixed OSV permit sticker valid for the area and time of use. OSV Special Use Permits and stickers are valid for one year from the end of the month of issue:
Permit placement: OSV permit stickers must be permanently affixed to the inside of the windshield in the lower right or lower left corners in accordance with the regulations of the state in which the vehicle is registered.
Permit upgrades may ONLY be made by presenting the original sticker and paying the difference in the cost of the permits. New permits will expire at the end of the same month and year as the original permit.
NOTE: Permit stickers are NOT refundable or replaceable if lost.
Permit replacement: OSV permits and stickers are issued to individual permit holders for the specific vehicle designated on the permit application and MAY NOT be transferred from one person to another or from one vehicle to another. Sale or transfer of the permitted vehicle VOIDS the permit and sticker.
If the permitted vehicle is sold or in an accident, permittee MUST provide Park staff with enough of the original permit sticker to read the complete permit number and expiration date in order to obtain a replacement sticker of the same type and expiration. If the sticker is destroyed in an accident Permittee must provide a copy of the official police report of the accident to obtain a replacement sticker.
A copy of the original permit application, and/or permit purchase receipt, IS NOT sufficient documentation to replace a permit sticker at no cost.
Purchasing a permit: OSV permits may be purchased at the North Beach Ranger Station in Maryland, and at the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia. **Please note: OSV permits will not be available for purchase Tuesdays - Thursdays in the months of December, January and February as the Toms Cove Visitor Center is closed.
• Virginia -- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hours vary each season. Call 757-336-6122 for current hours. Only those with a valid Overnight Fishing Permit may remain in the Refuge after hours. Call 757-336-6577 for information.
• Maryland -- Assateague Island National Seashore does not close, but overnight parking in the MD OSV Zone is prohibited except for those with an Overnight or Bullpen OSV permit who are awake and actively engaged in fishing. Camping and/or sleeping on the beach is strictly prohibited. Between sunset and sunrise tents and other temporary shelters are also prohibited on the beach outside of designated campsites.
OSV Boundaries: Vehicles must stay east of the black and white posts. Designated bay access points in MD are marked with orange and white striped numbered posts. All sand dunes and vegetated areas, including those located within the designated OSV zones,
are closed. See OSV zone maps on reverse side of this document.
Bullpen: Only self-contained vehicles with a valid Bullpen OSV permit and equipped with an approved toilet and permanently installed waste storage tanks capable of holding two (2) days’ volume of waste may park overnight in the Bullpen camping area.
All waste (including gray-water) from self-contained vehicles must be retained in vehicle’s holding tanks while in the OSV zone and emptied in an approved location outside the park or at trailer dump stations located in the Seashore campgrounds. Travel trailers and tents are not allowed in the Bullpen. Non self-contained vehicles are prohibited from parking in or adjacent to the Bullpen from
9 p.m. until 6 a.m.
Inspection of Vehicle: Authorized Park personnel may inspect vehicles to insure compliance with OSV permit regulations.
Sanitation: Litter or waste may not be burned, buried or discarded in OSV Zones but must be removed from the Seashore or disposed of in designated receptacles located outside of the OSV Zones.
Vehicle Requirements: To obtain an OSV permit, vehicles must meet the following specifications:
Required Equipment: OSV permittees must carry and be able to display the following upon request:
License Required: All vehicles in the OSV zones must bear valid state license plates, be properly equipped, insured & registered to operate on public highways. Drivers must possess a valid state driver’s license.
OSV Zone Limits: 145 vehicles in MD, 48 vehicles in VA. (VA South OSV is limited to 18 when Toms Cove hook area is closed March 15 - August 31. VA North OSV fishing mile open when Toms Cove Hook is closed (March 15 - August 31) and is limited to 12). Please inquire at the Toms Cove visitor center about sign in/ sign out procedures and current closures. Purchasing an OSV permit does not guarantee access to OSV zones at any particular time. Access may be reduced or curtailed due to vehicle density limits, over-wash, emergency conditions or land management constraints. Vehicle density limits are reached frequently during summer, especially on weekends and holidays with several hour waits for access which is managed on a one off/one on basis.
One Off, One On: In MD, the OSV automated gate arms will close after 145 vehicles have entered, then one vehicle is allowed to enter only when one vehicle exits. Call 757-898-0058 if gate is malfunctioning.
In VA a sign in/ sign out procedure is in place. Please inquire at Toms Cove Visitor Center about sign in/ sign out areas.
Vehicle Operation: Vehicle speed in OSV zones may not exceed 25 mph and must be reduced to 15 mph whenever coming within 100 feet of vehicles, wildlife, pedestrians or people on horseback. When two vehicles approach in the same track, both operators must slow and the operator with the ocean on his right must yield the right-of-way by pulling out of the track.
Cutting circles, needlessly defacing the beach and driving on sand dunes or in vegetated areas--except at posted crossings--is prohibited at all times.
Passenger Safety: Passengers shall not ride on the fenders, hood, roof, sides, tailgate or in any other place on the outside of a moving vehicle. No vehicle shall be used to tow a person or any recreational device over land or water or in the air. Use of safety belts and child restraints is required by law.
Fires on the Beach: In Maryland - Campfires are allowed below the high-tide line on the beach. Fires may not be left unattended and must be extinguished with water, not sand. If unable to allow enough time for all wood to burn to ash before extinguishing fire, charred wood remnants must be removed from Seashore or disposed of in waste receptacles. In Virginia: Open fires are prohibited in the Virginia OSV zone.
Pet Regulations: Virginia: Pets are strictly prohibited throughout the refuge.
Maryland: Pets are permitted but must be attached to a leash no more than 6 feet in length.
Access Roads: Maryland: Crossing dunes permitted only at bay access roads at KM 23.4 and KM 25.3.
Special Notice: The OSV Zone includes nesting habitat for the Piping Plover, a threatened bird species. To aid in the recovery of this species, the OSV Zone will be subject to partial or total closure to all vehicle, boat and pedestrian use during the nesting season which could last from March 15th to August 31st or possibly later. Closed areas will be clearly marked by cable barriers and/or signs.
Tips For OSV Operation:
• Remember, you are responsible for knowing the OSV rules and regulations.
• Lower tire pressure to between 15 and 20 pounds.
• Carry 4 boards (2”x 6”x 36”) for placement under each tire when stuck.
• After stopping vehicle back up several feet before proceeding forward.
• Walk across suspected soft sand first to be sure it
will hold your vehicle.
• Spinning a vehicle’s tires only makes them dig deeper into the sand thereby increasing the chance the vehicle’s frame will bottom out.
• Driving in the tracks of another vehicle is easier than driving through fresh sand.
• Carry water displacement spray for
drying wet engine electrical parts.
• Do not drive in salt water.
Last updated: March 22, 2020