Assateague Island is 48,000 acres comprised of near shore and estuarine waters. Its environment affects nearly every aspect of life as the waters and the island interact and change with its geography. The island is constantly changing as it is reshaped by the forces of wind, water and weather. The entire island is divided between Assateague in Maryland and Chincoteague in Virginia.
Exposure to salt, lack of fresh water and isolation from the mainland are conditions which have over time influenced the plant and animal life that inhabit the island.
The island was used as early as the 1600’s as Colonists used the island for grazing of horses and livestock. A theory is that the current day horses are descendants of a Spanish Galleon shipwreck of the 1700’s – SEE STORY HERE. Today the horses that inhabit the island are descendants of those early animals.
Over the years the island has been used as a fishing village, industrial site, as a network of lifesaving stations for stranded mariners and in an ill-fated attempt as a development for an ocean resort.
The island supports a multitude of wildlife including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. The wild horse are the island’s most popular wildlife and are joined by white-tailed deer, sika – a diminutive Asian elk, frogs and toads, black rat snakes, fiddler crabs, mud snails, ghost crabs, red fox, raccoons, shorebirds, snow geese, blue crab, and fish such as spot, menhaden and flounder, to name but a few of the varied species that make Assateague Island home.
The island has a road system and parking. Visitors may camp, hunt, swim, surf, collect shells, bike, surf fish, shell fish, canoe, kayak and use the Over-Sand vehicle area by permit.
Baltimore Boulevard – in the 1950’s developers paved a 15 mile road they named Baltimore Boulevard and it extended to the Maryland/Virginia State line. Land was cleared for 130 side streets and subdivided into some 9,000 building lots zoned and sold for resort development. In 1962 a northeaster storm wiped out almost everything ripping up the road and destroying the few existing structures on the island. Today what remains are pieces of the asphalt road and some signs of the clearings made for the side roads. The 1962 storm ultimately lead to the abandonment of the development in favor of the creation of a national seashore in 1965 that today is the Assateague National Seashore Park.