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Monomoy Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
A common tern adult tends to its fuzzy brown speckled chick in a sand nest.
Library image #2543: Common tern adult with chick


The United States Congress designated the Monomoy Wilderness (map) in 1970 and it now has a total of 3,244 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Massachusetts and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


As recently as 1958, this area was an extension of the mainland, the eroding shoreline at the elbow of Cape Cod. Severe winter storms isolated Monomoy Point from the mainland and, 20 years later, separated North Monomoy Island from South Monomoy Island. Ten miles of surf-beaten dunes on the eastern shore of the islands, still-shifting sands that sometimes reach 100 feet in height, give way to salt marsh and then to mudflats on the western shore. The ecosystem is a perfect habitat for migratory birds.

Dubbed a sanctuary for wildlife in 1944, most of 7,604-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge has been designated Wilderness: all of the north island and all but two tracts on the south island. The mainland portion of the refuge remains non-Wilderness. People are known to have lived here from 1711 on, and a lighthouse complex on the south island attests to their presence. Among the migratory birds you may see are grebes, shearwaters, petrels, gannets, bitterns, egrets, herons, swans, geese, ducks, and the endangered piping plover and roseate tern. Hundreds of gray and harbor seals winter along the coastline. Boaters swarm the shores in summer. Camping, fires, and pets are not permitted.

Planning to Visit the Monomoy Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Monomoy Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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