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The Cape Cod Connection
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

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The Refuge | History | Wildlife | Recreation | Regulations | The Birds | Fish & Wildlife Service | USFWS News Release

A National Wildlife Refuge

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge consists of North and South Monomoy Islands and a portion of Morris Island. Its 2,750 acres are predominantly barrier beach island of sand dunes, freshwater ponds, and salt and freshwater marshes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects and manages Monomoy as habitat for wildlife, with a special emphasis on migratory birds. Many of these migratory species nest here, and a variety of species native to the area also inhabit the refuge. The diversity of plant and animal life visible from refuge trails provides visitors with excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and nature study.

Located on the "elbow" of Cape Cod, the refuge stretches approximately ten miles southward into the waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlnatic Ocean. Ninety-four percent of Monomoy's acreage was designated a Wilderness Area in 1970, and is managed under the guidelines of the Wilderness Act of 1964. It is the only Wilderness Area in southern New England.

To reach the headquarters on Morris Island, take U.S. Route 6 east to State Route 137 south to State Route 28 east through Chatham to Chatham Lighthouse and Coast Guard Station. Take the first left after lighthouse, then the first right. Follow Morris Island Rosd to signs for the refuge on the left.



Despite its relative remoteness, Monomoy has a long history of human habitation. Historic occupation began as early as 1711, when a tavern for sailors operated at Wreck Cove, near the present location of Hospital Pond. During the mid-1800s, a fishing community knows as Whitewash Village thrived at the present site of the Powder Hole. The village dwindled and was finally abandoned as sediments shoaled in the deep harbor, eventually converting it to a shallow brackish pond. A Coast Guard installation at Powder Hole was manned from 1905 to 1945. Owners of the many "camps" used for fishing, hunting, and summer recreation were granted special use permits when the refuge was created. Only a single camp remains in use today.

Monomoy Lighthouse Complex

The Monomoy Lighthouse Complex is the only other remaining evidence of Monomoy's cultural heritage. The Light served as a coastal landmark for sailors navigating the treacherous Polluck Rip off Monomoy Point from 1828 to 1923. Situated at the south end of South Monomoy Island, the complex includes a wooden lightkeeper's house, a cast iron light tower lined with brick, and an adjacent brick generator house. It sits near the original dune line, now one half mile inland, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

North and South Monomoy are classic barrier islands, with surf-battered dunes on the eastern shores that gradually flatten out to salt marsh and mud flats on the western shores. Monomoy was initially formed by longshore, southbound ocean currents that continuously transport sand from the Cape's eroding eastern shoreline north of the refuge. On meeting the Nantucket Sound currents, sand settles to form shoals and, eventually, islands.

The Monomoy Islands were created when severe winter storms separated Monomoy Point from the mainland in 1958 and cut through the relatively new barrier island again, twenty years later. A map of Monomoy (JPEG 96K) is available for viewing.



The famed birder Ludlow Griscom often explored Monomoy when it was a peninsula. Much of the information on the islands' bird life during the early 1900s is due to his numerous visits.

Wildlife species common to much of New England are found on the refuge. A great diversity of birds has been recorded here, and an annotated list of 285 species is available upon request. The refuge provides nesting habitat for migratory waterfowl and colonial seabirds. Two important nesting species are the endangered piping plover and roseate tern. The refuge is famous for shorebird migrations. During the fall and winter, thousands of eiders, scoter, red-breasted mergansers, and brant congregate in offshore areas. Hundreds of harbor and gray seals may also be seen in the winter.



Monomoy BeachHike the nature trails. Observe, photograph, and study wildlife and plants. Beach combing, shellfishing, and surf fishing are popular activities on refuge beaches. There are no picnic or camp sites on the refuge.

The refuge has long been a favorite haunt of birdwatchers. Noted ornithologists consider Monomoy to be one of the most exciting birding locations on the East coast.

North and South Monomoy Islands are accessible by boat only. Commercial boat tours are available in season. Land access is to Morris Island only.


Public Use Regulations

All persons using the refuge are asked to comply with local, State, and Federal laws, regulations, and ordinances, as well as with the following conditions.

  1. Public use of designated trails within the refuge for wildlife observation, study, and photography is permitted from sunrise to sunset. Surf fishing on Morris Island is permitted 24 hours.
  2. On Morris Island, pets must be on a short handheld leash during the entire visit. No pets are permitted on the Monomoy Islands.
  3. Motorized vehicles are restricted to the entrance roads and parking areas.
  4. Hunting, shooting, fires, and camping are not permitted. Use of small barbecue grills is permitted on open beach areas only.
  5. Entry into closed areas is prohibited. Portions of the refuge are seasonally closed to protect sensitive wildlife from human disturbance. These areas are marked by signs.
  6. The disturbance, destruction, or removal of wildlife, vegetation, and facilities are prohibited.

This is your refuge, but not only yours. Enjoy it, and please do nothing to harm it.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Monomoy is one of almost 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife management progrm in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.

The Service also manages National Fish Hatcheries, and provides Federal leadership in habitat protection, fish and wildlife research, technical assistance and the conservation and protection of migratory birds, certain marine mammals and threatened and endangered species.

For futher information, contact:

Refuge Manager
Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Weir Hill Road
Sudbury, MA 01776-1427
Telephone: (508) 443-4661

Hard of hearing or deaf visitors may call the Massachusetts Relay Center at 1-80-0-439-2370

This brochure is available upon request in print and in a large print version.

The Morris Island Trail Guide is also available upon request.

Dept of the Interior Seal US Fish & Wildlife Seal

The Refuge | History | Wildlife | Recreation | Regulations | The Birds | Fish & Wildlife Service | USFWS News Release

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