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A Visit to the Sunken Forest

A walk through the Sunken Forest on Fire Island is like a visit to a foreign land. The forest has over 200-year-old holly, bayberry, blueberry, sassafras, and shadblow trees. Some trees are estimated to be 300 years old! The twisted and tangled tree branches provide scenery that you won’t find anywhere else on Long Island. In fact, this forest is one of only two in the world. The other is located in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

How did the Sunken Forest get its name? It looks as if it’s below sea level. But treetops are the same height as the ocean dunes, which make it appear to be “sunken.” The half-mile path takes you from the Sailors Haven marina and goes along the bay then weaves through the forest until you come out at a spectacular view of the ocean.

The forest has been part of the Fire Island National Seashore since 1966, guaranteeing that this wonder will remain undeveloped. During the summer season (can’t wait until next year!) the Rangers provide guided tours of the forest. But even without a guided tour, your walk is sure to delight kids of all ages, including grown-kid bird watchers and nature lovers.

Phoebe loved walking through the forest. Her nose never stopped twitching from all the amazing scents she picked up. She may have been smelling deer, fox, box turtle, muskrat who lives in the marsh, or two types of snakes: the garter and the black racer. Neither snake is dangerous. The black racer is harmless and non-venomous. It does bite, but only if you approach it. One time Phoebe saw a black snake wiggle right in front of her under the Sunken Forest walkway.

It’s going to be a great fall weekend on the barrier island. If you’re looking for something different to do, this is the last weekend for ferry service to Sailors Haven. The ferry leaves Sayville at 10:30 AM, 11:45 AM, and 2:30 PM.

But if you can’t make it this weekend, and don’t want to wait until spring, learn about the Sunken Forest in this seven-minute video with Ranger Dave of the Fire Island National Seashore.

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