Monomoy Island

Located on the "elbow" of Cape Cod, the refuge stretches approximately ten miles southward into the waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic 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.

Monomoy Nationail Wildlife Refuge is a stretch of land has been through quite a few changes since it was declared a refuge in 1944. First, a 1958 storm turned what had been Monomoy Point into Monomoy Island, and then a 1978 blizzard sliced that island in two. Monomoy, along with Provincetown, is the only area of the Cape that's actually growing, so perhaps in the future this currently 2,750-acre property, overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will shelter even more animal life. Right now it harbors every species of bird native to New England, some 285 in all, including piping plovers, heron, and egrets; a prime resting spot along the Atlantic Flyway, it's frequented by birds from as far away as the Arctic and Brazil. Deer wander among the 175 species of plants, ranging from red cedar to orchids and sundews. Thousands of harbor and gray seals winter here; in fact, gray pups born here in 1990 heralded the establishment of the first gray seal colony in Massachusetts. The one species you won't see much of is Homo Sapiens.

About 40 acres on Morris Island are accessible by car, then foot (there's a 3/4-Mile trail, closed during high tide), but the islands are uninhabited. You can visit them as part of a naturalist-guided tour conducted by either the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (896-3867) or the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (349.2615). * Daily dawn-dusk. Morris Island Rd (off Main St).

When a tavern for sailors operated at Wreck Cove, near the present location of Hospital Pond. During the mid-1800s, a fishing community known 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.

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 Pollock 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 surfbattered 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 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.

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


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 at 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, thousand 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.


Hike 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 bird watchers. Noted ornithologists consider Monomoy to be one of the mostexciting 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.


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 photo-

graphy 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 hand-held 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 a reprint from "Chatham 1997" with kind permission from Thompson's Printing Inc.
51 Finlay Road, Orleans, MA 02653

Stage Harbor Real Estate • 29 Stage Harbor Road • Chatham, MA 02633
Phone: 508-945-0074 • Fax: 508-945-9113 • Email: