Dial 9-1-1 in an Emergency
Cell phone service may be unavailable in parts of the park. Emergencies in those areas should be reported to rangers on patrol, lifeguards, campground hosts or to ranger station or visitor center staff.
Your visit to Assateague will be more enjoyable if you are aware of and prepared to deal with insects, inclement weather, surf conditions and sun.
Always wear your seat belt.
Obey posted speed limits.
Watch for animals on the road, especially in evening and morning.
Keep Wildlife Wild
Respect wildlife and observe animals from a distance. Never feed or approach them.
Keep your distance from animals, even if they approach you.
Keep your food and trash from wildlife by storing it properly, day and night. Dispose of trash in animal-proof trash cans or dumpsters.
During your visit to Assateague, you may encounter wild horses. Petting or feeding the wild horses may seem like a harmless and fun thing to do, but the consequences can be terrible. For your safety and the safety of the horses, please obey park regulations and do not approach, touch or feed the Assateague horses. Download our horse safety brochure.
Maryland District Visitors have several options to access drinking water in the National Seashore. Public water fountains are located at the Barrier Island Visitor Center and at the North Beach Pavilion. Bottled water is seasonally available at the Beach Hut at North Beach and at the Kayak rental on Bayside Drive.
Virginia District Visitors have limited options to access drinking water in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Plan ahead and bring your own bottles of water or containers to fill. A public water fountain is seasonally available at the Toms Cove Visitor Center, located a short distance from the ocean along Beach Road. Another public water fountain is available inside the Herbert H. Bateman Educational Center; bottled water may also be available at this location.
Sun Survival While some exposure to sunlight can be enjoyable, too much can be dangerous. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight can result in a painful sunburn and can also lead to more serious health effects, including skin cancer, premature aging of the skin and other skin disorders, cataracts and other eye damage, and immune system suppression. Limit Time in the Midday Sun - Avoid exposure to the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Remember the shadow rule: Watch Your Shadow. No Shadow, Seek Shade! Always Use Sunscreen - Liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher on exposed skin. Reapply every 2 hours when working or playing outdoors. Even waterproof sunscreen can come off when you towel off, sweat or spend extended periods of time in water. Cover Up - Wear tightly woven, loose-fitting and full-length clothing. A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection to your eyes, ears, face and the back of your neck. Wearing sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV radiation will greatly reduce sun exposure that can lead to cataracts and other eye damage.
Beach Safety During Lightning Storms
Every year lightning strikes kill or injure beach-goers around the world. If thunder can be heard then lightning is present. These simple steps can help save your life:
- Obey posted closures.
- Retreat to your car or other shelter and wait out the storm.
- Do not use the showers as you leave the beach during a storm.
- If you are caught in an open area, crouch on the balls of your feet and lean forward with your hands on your knees. Do not lie down or put your hands on the ground.
- Sound travels a million times slower than light. When you see a flash, time the seconds it takes to hear the thunder. A 5-second difference between the lightning flash and the thunder means the lightning struck 1 mile away. For each additional 5 seconds the strike is another mile away.
The National Park Service works to provide you with a safe and enjoyable experience. However, conditions at the beach and in the surf zone can change dramatically in very short periods of time. Understanding the dynamics of typical surf zone currents will help you avoid a potentially dangerous situation. For your best protection use the lifeguarded area, which is designated by "red over yellow flags". Ask any lifeguard or check the informational signs for posted warnings or closures.
Mosquitoes and other biting insects may be abundant on Assateague from May to November. They are most active at dawn and dusk. You can protect yourself from biting insects by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and/or using insect repellents on your clothing and exposed skin. Repellents containing DEET (20% to 30%), Picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus can be very effective. Carefully follow instructions on the container. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a cautious approach be used when applying repellents with DEET on children (repellents with 10% or less on children aged 2 - 12 and never using repellents with DEET on infants). Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three. Wash treated skin after returning indoors.
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is an illness caused by bacteria transmitted to people through tick bites. In its early stages, Lyme Disease may cause circular rashes, flu-like symptoms, headaches, stiff neck and fevers. In its later stages, the disease may cause arthritis in large joints, meningitis, neurological and cardiac problems. The primary carrier, the black-legged tick (deer tick), is present on Assateague Island. While they can be found in any natural area on the island, special care should be taken in high shrub areas, woods and leaf litter. Wearing insect repellent and checking for ticks may prevent bites. more info...
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies may affect the appearance and behavior of many creatures, particularly foxes and raccoons. Visitors should never approach animals with the intention of offering assistance. Untreated, rabies leads to death in humans. Please report any sightings of sick animals to the nearest park ranger or refuge staff.
Found throughout the island, poison ivy, with its shiny leaves in clusters of three, can produce an itchy, red rash if you come in contact with the plant’s oils. To lessen your chance of contact, stay on all trails and boardwalks. If you accidentally touch poison ivy, immediately wash the affected areas with soapy water to remove the oil. Remember: “Leaves of three - let them be!”