Monomoy Wilderness

Migratory birds, shifting sand dunes and hundreds of gray seals

A view of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, located off the coast of Chatham, MA Courtesy of USFWS/Zachary Cava via Flickr
Common tern adult with chick on Monomoy Island Courtesy of Wilderness Institute
Seals on Monomoy Island Courtesy of SUESS via the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism's Flickr
View from the top of Monomoy Point Light Courtesy of USFWS via Flickr
Monomoy Point Light at a distance, Monomoy Wilderness Courtesy of USFWS via Flickr

Location: Massachusetts
Size: 3,244 acres
Year Designated: 1970
Fast Fact: Massachusetts' only wilderness area.

Monomoy Wilderness used to be attached to mainland Massachusetts, near Cape Cod, but in the 1950s, severe winter storms began eroding the connecting land, effectively cutting the Monomoy area off from the mainland and turning it into an island. Winter storms continued to shape the geography of the island, separating it into two parts: South Monomoy Island and North Monomoy Island. The islands’ sandy shorelines and dunes, which are still in flux due to weather patterns and can reach up to 100 feet in height, offer a perfect habitat for migratory birds, which have been known to make their temporary homes on Monomoy’s islands.

In 1944, 7,604-acres of the area around Monomoy were dubbed a wildlife sanctuary. Today, the two islands are almost all completely designated as wilderness as well (save for two small tracts of land on the southern island). In addition to migratory birds, marine animals like gray and harbor seals use the islands’ coastline for winter shelter.

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