The Sunken Forest of Fire Island

Oct 2014

I’ve heard the 300 year old Sunken Forest of Fire Island referred to as the Island’s Crown Jewel. After recently travel to visiting this unusual environmental spot, it’s easy to see why. Inside a hideaway, explored through a system of boardwalks, you’ll find a beautiful canopy of twisted vines and maritime forest nestled between dunes, ocean and bay.

sunken forest fire island new york

The rare holly forest is the only one of its kind on the east coast and exists behind well established sand dunes along the Atlantic. I found it remarkable that this gem of the National Park Service, one of six types from the classification system,  has survived the storms that come through this spit of land off the coast of Long Island, NY. Recognized as Globally Rare by the New York Heritage Program, “there are few remaining occurrences of this assemblage of plants throughout the world.”

sunken forest Twisting and turning over freshwater bogs, the 1.5 mile trail passes through a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses. White tail deer, fox and an abundance of birds call this sea level environment home. The ocean is responsible for what is called “salt spray pruning” which keeps the top heights of the majority of the growth quite uniform.

fire-island-new-york-beach-barrier-island - 35Private citizens first spearheaded the campaign to preserve this tract of land in the 1950’s and the 50 acres of beach, dune and forest was eventually pieces together as a sanctuary. The rare ecological system of the Sunken Forest was preserved as part of the Fire Island National Seashore in 1966 under the conditions that it remain in it’s natural state and no road be built through the land. If you are in the area, the habitat can be visited when the ferries are running to the part of the Island known as Sailors Haven, by water taxi, or it is accessible by walking from other surrounding towns.

sunken forest fire island new yorkAny regular readers of Green With Renvy are well aware of the sense of empowerment I feel when near the water. I’m not alone with that special relationship. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy three young city dwellers from NYC in a Poetry Slam. They discover just how inspiring a change from their normal frenetic urban life can be when they visit the Fire Island National Seashore.  It’s hard to believe, that just a short subway ride away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, acres of coastal wilderness can inspire these poets to look inward and share what their personal experience with natural beauty means.

The National Park Service is made up of 401 areas representing 84 million acres in every one of the United States. Many are located close to urban metropolitan centers and can provide a needed sense of calm. The National Parks belong to all of us, visit them often and appreciate what they can do for your spirit.  As Sergio so succinctly declares in the video “nature is part of the family that you have to visit now and again“. It’s a visit that can do wonders for a person’s psyche.

*On another note, a gigantic thank you all so much for the positive feedback regarding my Good bye to Fire Island post. It is so rewarding to receive encouragement from readers and fellow bloggers for work that is so meaningful for me.

 This post is part of the Travel Photo Monday series. Have a look at some of the other great destination reads you’ll find there.
  1. Love this sort of place – it calls out to the geographer in me! Discoveries like these are great for local trips or part of a holiday as they get you away from the crowds and enjoying something fascinating

  2. What a beautiful spot! I hope that places like this can be protected and preserved … they are so special! Thank you for sharing your trip with us! 🙂

  3. Erin says:

    “nature is part of the family that you have to visit now and again“. It’s a visit that can do wonders for a person’s psyche.

    We had a recent visit with nature and this described it perfectly. Thanks for walking us through here.

  4. Sounds like a fabulous place to explore and photograph. And how wonderful that it is in such easy reach of Manhattan, the perfect antidote to hectic lives.

    • alison says:

      To be honest Kat, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly and easy reach, but everything is relative right!? Once you see the water, all travel time disappears in my mind.

  5. The world needs wonderful wild places of nature like this, protected for future generations :-). The Sunken Forest looks like a great place to escape to for some peace and serenity…

  6. Wow! I had no idea this place was on fire island, and pretty near by me! Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a magical place. How wonderful that preservationists worked to keep it pristine. Truly another world – you can almost envision fairies and ghosts.

  8. Great to read that for once the residents urged the establishment of a protected park! I agree: it sounds unbelievable to find such a gem within reach of the local subway system – what a treasure!

  9. How cool! Always heard about Fire Island but never really knew anything about it thanks. Another place we have to visit.

  10. What an interesting place. It’s so fortunate that it was saved for everyone to enjoy now and into the future!

  11. Although I’m a New Yorker, I never heard about this hidden gem~

  12. Wow, what a stunning place. Who’d realise it was in New York! Insane!

    LOVE your comment form by the way! Amazing!

  13. I’d love to visit the Sunken Forest at Fire Island National Seashore someday. Lovely.

  14. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful place to go for a hike/nature walk. Give me nature and fresh air over city any day! I love what the people in the video had to say about their experience.

    • alison says:

      Michelle-I’m so glad you took the time to watch the video. I was really moved by what those teens had to say. It just demonstrated what an incredible impact our environment can have on the psyche.

  15. Lauren says:

    I love how this place is preserved and won’t be wrecked by construction or anything like that! The boardwalk looks lovely to walk along through the forest.

  16. It’s great when a group of people can come together to save a gem like this. So happy to hear that no roads will be built there and that they will keep it in it’s natural state. We love those kinds of places.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.


  17. noel says:

    Wow, it has been like 30+ plus years since I’ve been here, thanks for taking me back to see this amazing forest and area.

  18. budget jan says:

    I am always amazed by how many National Parks there are in the States. This one looks unusual.