Equine Experience: Exploring the Wild Side of Assateague Island
Want to live on the edge? Visit a place recreated each day by ocean wind and waves. Life on Assateague Island has adapted to an existence on the move. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Rest, relax, recreate and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent.
Assateague's wild horses are well known, even to many people who have never been to the island. Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this dramatic tale of struggle and survival is popular, there are no records yet that confirm it. The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock. Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this remote, windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society. Enjoy their beauty from a distance, and you can help make sure these extraordinary wild horses will continue to thrive on Assateague Island.
Located along the Atlantic migratory flyway, Assateague Island also plays host to a wide variety of both migratory and resident bird species. Because its mid-latitude location is within the migratory routes of both northern and southern species, the island provides a unique opportunity for birders. The island's rich mosaic of forest, dune, and marsh habitats offers feeding and nesting opportunities for a wide array of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and waders.
There are three excellent parks on the island: Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park in Maryland, and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. An abundance of wildlife can be observed, from the infamous wild ponies, to river otters, red foxes, deer and egrets. Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the plentiful trails, many accessible for biking as well!
Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the plentiful trails, many accessible for biking as well!
Camping is available in the Maryland portion of Assateague Island National Seashore and in the Maryland State Park. In Virginia, there are privately owned campgrounds on nearby Chincoteague Island. Motels are located in Ocean City, MD and Chincoteague, VA.
Source: Assateague Island National Seashore - nps.gov
Photos courtesy of NPS.gov, royal65 and clintjcl.