Assateague State Park

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Assateague State Park, Maryland, United States
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Assateague fg02.jpg
Feral horses in Assateague State Park
Location Worcester County, Maryland, United States
Coordinates 38°13′45″N 75°08′37″W / 38.22917°N 75.14361°W / 38.22917; -75.14361Coordinates: 38°13′45″N 75°08′37″W / 38.22917°N 75.14361°W / 38.22917; -75.14361
Area 859 acres (3.48 km²)
Governing body Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Assateague State Park is Maryland's only oceanfront park. It is located on Assateague Island, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Sinepuxent Bay on the west. Its two miles of ocean beaches offer swimming, beachcombing, sunbathing, surfing and fishing. The bayside offers visitors the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak. The marsh areas have a variety of wildlife, including deer, waterfowl and feral horses. Ocean City is approximately nine miles north of the park and can be seen from the island. The historic town of Berlin is less than eight miles away. Quaint shops, an historic hotel, and small restaurants give visitors the chance to step back in time. Berlin was the filming location for two major motion pictures, Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting.



Amenities at the park include a bike trail, boat launch/marina, nature programs, camp sites, camp store, dumping station, food & beverage, fishing, swimming, and nature center. A guarded swimming area is available daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Rip currents are a common occurrence on Assateague Island. Be sure you know how to handle them before you swim. Fishing is available in the boat launch area or from the ocean beach. Boat launch facilities are on the mainland park acreage. Public access to the beach and the day use parking lot is open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset, 7 days a week.


350 sites are available, each with a fire ring and picnic table. Electric hook-ups are available in the H-Loop only. Most campsites can be reserved from April 23, 2014 through October 26, 2014. Youth Group Camping can be reserved from April 23, 2014 through October 26, 2014. A valid Maryland DNR Youth Group Pass is required to reserve a Youth Group Camping Area. Nightly service charges apply. For additional information visit our web site at: Campground Office/Ranger Station – When the campground is open, the office may be reached at (410) 641-2918. The hours of operation: April 23-May 22, 2014: Sunday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.- 8:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 8:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. May 23-September 1, 2014: 8:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. 7 days/week September 2-October 26, 2014: Sunday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.- 8:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 8:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. Call 1-888-432-CAMP(2267) for reservations or "click" here for online reservations. It is your responsibility to have the necessary skills, knowledge and equipment for a safe and environmentally sensitive visit.


Fishing at Assateague State Park can be done on the beach or at our marina. Surf fishing on the beach is allowed at the State Park as long as it is done outside of the lifeguarded areas. This policy is the same at the National Park. Bay fishing is allowed at the marina piers and from boats in the designated areas of the Bay. Clamming is allowed at the State Park and at the National Park in different areas of the bay. Beginning January 2011, fishing licenses are required in the Sinepuxent Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Please refer to DNR Licensing & Registration Service for details on fishing licenses and the Maryland saltwater angler registry.

If you want to fish the surf in the Day Use/Beach area, the standard parking charges apply – in-season, $4.00 per person for Maryland residents, $6.00 per person for non-residents. In the off-season, the cost is $3.00 per vehicle for Maryland residents and $5 per vehicle for out-of-state, paid through a self-registration system. If you want to fish at the marina pier, the cost is $3.00 per vehicle for Maryland residents and $5.00 per vehicle for out-of-state. If you wish to launch a boat, the service charge is $10.00 for in-state residents and $12 for out-of-state residents, and covers the cost of parking. Both charges are paid through a self-registration system. Regulations vary according to the type of catch. Please refer to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing Guide for state regulations. The guide can be downloaded from this website. The only fish cleaning station is at the marina; however, it is very basic and there is no running water. Please do not use the restrooms to clean fish.

Pet Policy[edit]

Pets are allowed in the marina area to board vessels Pets are allowed with registered campers in the following campsites: Loop H, Loop J, Loop I sites 36-51, as well as on the beach from the H Loop crossover to the south and on the road in I Loop Pets are allowed in day-use areas from Labor Day to the Friday before Memorial Day (Pets are not allowed in day-use areas from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend)


Wild Horses (Equus caballus)


Merlin (bird) (Falco Columbarius) Wing span: 23" Appearance: black/white feathers The Merlin is a species of falcon that inhabits Assateague island but it can be seen within the park. Merlins have been documented to disguise themselves by imitating characteristics of a pigeon or woodpecker in order to ambush its prey. It has also been known to be aggressively territorial, even against other birds of prey.

Piping Plover (Charadrius Melodius) Appearance: Beige, black/white feathers The Piping Plovers migrate to between the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico in between seasons but the time spent in the Assateague State Park is used to breed. Unfortunately, Piping Plover eggs often fall prey to Raccoons, Gulls, or Foxes.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) Wing span:6'6" Appearance: dark blue feathers The Brown Pelican Brown Pelicans are specialized hunters. They use their enormous bill and expandable pouch to dive into the water to capture fish. They resurface to feed on the fish and take flight again. They consume approximately four pounds of fish a day. This breed of pelican lays 2−4 eggs after it mates.They typically exist in colonies.

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) Wingspan: 3'8" Appearance: Black and white feathers Black skimmer are specialized hunter due to the way they use their beaks. Both portions of the beak partly colored black but the lower mandible of the black skimmer is longer than the upper mandible and is used to skim across the surface of the water thereby scooping up any unsuspecting fish. Therefore it is aptly named the black skimmer. This species of bird is currently marked as a threatened species. They typically breed in colonies on beaches and lay approximately three to five eggs.


Sika Deer (Cervus nippon) Appearance: burnt umber fur Sika Deer typically in habit the sand dune areas and marshes within Assateague. The oddity about them is that they were originally introduced into the environment from Japan or eastern Asia. they often behave like elk and display amazing battles between potential male mates during mating season. There are multiple subspecies of Sika that exist throughout Asia but many have gone extinct and therefore have been transplanted into other parts of the world to resuscitate the population.

White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)


Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus Polyphemus) Appearance: dark toned exoskeleton (covers entire body) Horseshoe crabs have barely changed from their 300 million-year-old ancestors. They mainly inhabit the shore areas for calmer waters. This species of crab has a strange similarity to spiders due to its multiple pairs of eyes. Horseshoe crabs typically feed on razor clams and other shellfish though horseshoe crabs are hunted by many species of shore birds as well as trout, flounder and other crabs.

Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)

Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata)


Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes) Appearance: red/orange coat. Red foxes are typically active at night throughout Assateague. They are commonly spotted on the shoreline. It uses its finely-tuned ears to detect prey such as mice that hide beneath the snow and as a result, they are effective in controlling the rodent populations. Red foxes have a short life span but some have been recorded to survive up to the age of fourteen.



Visitors to Assateague State Park have a new opportunity to learn about colonial life along Maryland's coast when they visit historic Rackliffe House. Rackliffe, overlooking Sinepuxent Bay, is a beautifully restored 18th-century coastal plantation house located at the end of Tom Patton Lane, just a half-mile hike from the Assateague Island Visitor Center. The late Tom Patton, founding President of the Rackliffe House Trust, envisioned the House as a site for coastal heritage interpretation. The Trust, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Assateague State Park, has raised more than $800,000 for the restoration of Rackliffe House and the archeological investigation of the surrounding property. The Trust is now operating the structure and surrounding three acres of property as a Coastal Maryland Heritage Center. The plantation house is reportedly the only one of its kind and vintage in the Mid-Atlantic region that is open to the public. The vast majority of the funds raised have been used to complete the restoration of the notable coastal Maryland colonial residence and attached kitchen wing. The Trust is currently working to complete the restoration of the historic milk house, and funds are being raised to develop an interpretation and landscaping plan. Rackliffe House will be open on Thursdays during the summer. Visitors may hike to Rackliffe House any day between dawn and dusk to view the House exterior and explore the grounds. Visitors are asked to park in the lot for the Assateague Island Visitor Center and walk to the House along Tom Patton Lane. New hiking trails are being created by Assateague State Park that will offer a more scenic path to Rackliffe House. For more information about Rackliffe House, please visit

Volunteer work[edit]

Camp Host[edit]

Camp Host programs around Maryland State Parks give volunteers the chance to experience the nature and wildlife of different locations for free in exchange for maintenance work and upkeep. Anyone who wants to become a volunteer for the camp host must sign on for a one month agreement anytime from May to October. Hosts are required to fulfill at least 28 hours of service work each week during the month. If you would like more information, or an application, call Ranger Adam Stachowiak at (410)641-2120 ext. 13.

Landscaping and maintenance workers[edit]

If you enjoy the surroundings and plant life of Assateague State Park you can volunteer for their landscaping and maintenance work around the area. These volunteers have the opportunity to keep the park looking clean and undamaged by landscaping native plants in the local garden, trash pickup on the beach, building maintenance, and proper dune upkeep.

Volunteer Rangers[edit]

After completing 40 hours of volunteer service, people 18 and over can become a part of the Volunteer Ranger Program. The volunteer rangers assist full-time staff with the parks regular programs, operations, and public service. After completing the 40 hours of volunteer service, helpers can choose to take the statewide training throughout Maryland that is required for the volunteer rangers. Additional training is also offered such as CPR knowledge, search and rescue, and other training through the regional level.

Interpretive Program volunteers[edit]

Assateague State Park also offers the opportunity to become more involved with community outreach and educating school groups that come to visit the park. Activities for volunteers range from feeding the animals used for education, staffing workers for exhibits, and assist with the group tours around the park. The volunteers range from all ages including high school students to retirees.[1]

Friends of Assateague State Park (FOASP)[edit]

The Friends of Assateague State Park (FOASP) is a non profiting organization dedicated to the improvement and sustainability of the state park. There is an average of 200 members in FOASP that volunteer each year involving maintenance work, environmental education, and camp hosting. The FOASP participates in service projects that are created to clean up the beach and the land around it. Leave a message for them at 410-641-2120 ext 24.

Mission statement[edit]

“The mission of the Friends of Assateague State Park is to enhance Assateague State Park through physical, financial, and outreach programs.”[2]


Beach safety[edit]

Breaking surf waves can be dangerous, to avoid injuries do not ride waves into the shore. Rip currents are common occurrences so it is recommended to swim with someone and have strong swimming skills. Flotation devices such as inner tubes, inflatable boats, and water wings are not allowed. Digging in the sand is permitted but all holes must be filled in before leaving. Sports that require nets must be set up parallel to the ocean so the net does not block emergency vehicles. Food needs to be stored in vehicles until it is ready to be eaten. Coolers and beach bags are often raided by ponies searching for food. Beach visitors also need to be aware of the flag system. A green flag indicates normal conditions, yellow means dangerous surf and red means absolutely no swimming due to hazardous currents.

Wildlife safety[edit]

Visitors need to demonstrate caution when driving to protect the wildlife. When driving obey the speed limits and scan the surrounding area for hazards. Do not stop suddenly or block traffic when watching the horses. Do not feed the animals. Feeding the animals will make them dependent on visitors. Feeding animals also encourages them to stay along roads for food and could lead to them being hit by cars.

See also[edit]

Assateague Island

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge


External links[edit]