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Goodie Bag

Just a few minutes from Ocean City, Maryland lies Assateague Island, a natural barrier island with lush marshlands, beautiful beaches and miles of water for endless sporting activities. The island is home to Assateague Island National Seashore Park and Visitor's Center, and Assateague State Park.

If you are a camper, the island is ideal for camping, hiking, biking, fishing, clamming, crabbing, canoeing and kayaking.

Assateague Island is also home to wild ponies, made famous in the novels about Misty of Chincoteague. The ponies are often seen along the roadside, in the campgrounds, and along the ocean beach and bayside. Also, if the ponies are feeling itchy, you'll see them in the ocean and the bay.

Park rangers remind visitors to be cautious of the ponies although they seem friendly, and ask that you do not feed or pet them.

Directions To Assateague Island From Ocean City, Maryland:

From Ocean City, cross Route 50 Bridge heading West. At the thrid traffic light, turn left onto Route 611 South. Brown signs will direct you to Assateague Island National Seashore and Visitor's Center, and to the State Park. It is approximately 7 miles from the bridge in Ocean City.
Estimated Time From Ocean City: 10 minutes.

The Ponies Of Assateague
The herd of wild ponies is one of the unique treasures of Assateague Island. The ponies often wander the beaches, the roadways and trails, the campgrounds and marsh areas of the island. There are two separate herds of ponies on the 37 mile long island separated by a fence at the Maryland - Virginia state line.

Legend has it that sometime in the 1500's, a Spanish Galleon was shipwrecked off the coast of Assateague. Aboard the ship was a load of mustangs and when the ship went down, many of the horses swam ashore on Assateague for safety. The ponies that wander the island today are supposedly the descendants of these mustangs.

Locally it is believed that these ponies were once domestic animals. Today, these shaggy, sturdy ponies live wild, adapting to their environment by eating scrub trees, dune and marsh grasses and drinking fresh water from natural ponds.

Rangers urge visitors not to feed or pet the ponies. While they appear tame, they can be unpredictable and may kick or bite.

Other animals found on the island include sika deer, beaver, muskrat, raccoon and more - at least 44 species of mammals and 260 species of birds including the Brown Pelican, Piping Plover, herons, egrets and bitterns. Assateague, with all its wildlife, is a favorite spot for those who enjoy birding.

Pony Swim
Each year on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July in the southern end of the island in Virginia, the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge group and the Volunteer Firemen of Chincoteague Island carry out the annual pony swim. The horses are rounded up with their new foals and colts and herded across the shallow bay at low tide into the Town of Chincoteague, then placed in corrals for a day and night of rest. The next day, an auction takes place and a certain number of ponies are sold to qualified buyers to keep the herd size down to a reasonable number. Once the auction is over, the rest of the ponies swim back across the shallows to Chincoteague Island.

Discover The Island By Foot
Assateague's natural beauty is great to explore! Short, self-guided hikes are available on the Life of the Marsh, Life of the Forest and Life of the Dunes nature trails, all located in the National Seashore Park. Longer hikes are available north to the Ocean City Inlet, or south on the Off Road Vehicle Innerdune Road.

The park also offers scheduled guided walks and evening nature programs. For more information, call the Visitor Center at 410-641-1441.

Fishing, Clamming and Crabbing At Its Best
A license is not required for surf fishing along Assateague's coast. Surf fishing is permitted on the beach except on beach patrol guarded beaches, and in designated surfing zones. An ORV permit is required for driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle on the beach to the southern-most surf fishing areas.

Assateague's bayside offers excellent opportunities for clamming and crabbing. Raking while wading is the best method for clamming, while using a crab net and baited line is the best method of crabbing. Please use caution for deep drop-offs.

Enjoying Time On The Water
Bring your boat, or rent one from a nearby marina. The bay waters off Assateague are ideal for boating, sailing and canoeing. Caution should be used as there are some areas that may be shallow.

Canoes can be launched at the end of Old Ferry Landing Road. Larger boats should use the public boat ramps in West Ocean City or the State Park launch facilities on the mainland, across from the National Park's Visitor Center. Most of the private marinas in the area have boat ramps available for a small fee as well.

Bicycling On Assateague
Take a relaxing bike ride through Assateague Island or try a longer excursion from Ocean City to the island. A 3 1/2 mile paved bike route now leads from Route 611 to Assateague and through the parks. The more adventurous cyclist may appreciate the 9 mile trek from Ocean City's inlet area following Route 50 west to Route 611, and south to Assateague Island.

Bike lock-ups are located at the entrances to both parks and also near the camping and nature trails in the National Park.

Safety
An unspoiled treasure like Assateague deserves special care. Visitors are reminded to abide by the rules and regulations to preserve this unique barrier island.

  • Use repellents. Visitors should protect themselves against poison ivy, mosquitos and ticks because they are abundant on the island from spring through autumn.
  • Drive slowly. Be cautious of children, ponies, bicycles, hikers, other animals, other vehicles on the roadways, parking lots and campgrounds.
  • Do not litter. Litter spoils Assateague, and plastics and fishing lines can also be deadly to birds that become entangled in them.
  • DO NOT FEED THE WILD PONIES OR WILD ANIMALS. Don't feed human food to any animal in the park. This is detrimental to their health and encourages them to stay along roadsides where they may get hit.
  • Use guarded beaches. Swim near a lifeguard. Mats and tubes are not permitted in the guarded areas of the surf, and are discouraged elsewhere. Surfing is not permitted in guarded beach areas.
  • Keep pets at home. Pets are prohibited in the primitive area north of the State Park and in all of the back country camp sites. Elsewhere, pets are permitted if they are on a leash no longer than six feet.
  • Hunting is strictly controlled. Only certain waterfowl and game species may be taken under state and federal regulations. Contact the National Seashore Headquarters for up-to-date information.
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