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Monomoy Wilderness

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Area Management

The Monomoy Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Monomoy Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

Visitor Use Management:

•The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, except for individuals surf fishing on Morris Island, which is permitted 24 hours a day.

•Dogs are allowed on a short leash on mainland portions of the refuge between October and March. Dogs are not allowed in the Wilderness Area.

•There is no hunting, camping or bonfires allowed on refuge property.

•There are no trash cans on the refuge. All sites are carry-in and carry-out/Leave No Trace.

•Kayaks and canoes are not allowed to push off from the Morris Island visitor parking area but may be launched from Town property on the Morris Island Road causeway.

•The removal of shells, stones, or any form of natural life is prohibited on the refuge.

•To reduce disturbance to wildlife, entering areas marked with "area close" or "beach closed" is prohibited.

•The refuge parking lot is for use by visitors of the refuge only. The use of refuge parking to pick up or drop off from private vessels is prohibited.

Natural Resources Management:

Shorebird Monitoring

The refuge provides important resting, nesting and feeding habitat for migratory birds, including the Federally protected piping plover and roseate tern. More than ten species of seabirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds nest on the islands. The refuge also supports the second largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard with over 8,000 nesting pairs. Our biologists participate in tern census of common, least, and roseate terns. They also monitor nesting piping plover and American oystercatcher.

Horseshoe crab surveys

Each year during the breeding season, volunteers go out and tag individuals. The refuge conducts resighting surveys of tagged horseshoe crabs, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keeps track of previously tagged individuals using a call-in system, which is written on the tag if you come across a previously tagged individual.

Controlled burns

Monomoy NWR uses prescribed fire to reduce vegetation within the tern colony to create patchy areas in which the terns prefer to nest. Were there too much vegetation, the birds would not be able to find suitable nesting grounds. Typically nature takes care of the problem by covering the existing vegetation with sand during storms, but in recent years it has been necessary to use prescribed fire to create the same effect.


Monomoy NWR uses a type of herbicide that helps reduce the amount of woody species present while not harming any grass species. To avoid any harmful effects to the birds, the herbicide is applied in the off season when no birds are present in the colony.

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