Sunken Forest | Fire Island

Sunken Forest

Sunken Forest

The Sunken Forest in Sailor’s Haven is one of the few remaining maritime forests on the eastern seaboard and spans over 40 acres of wildlife. Serious hikers, bird watchers, and ecologists find this part of Fire Island to be absolutely fascinating. The forest features holly, bayberry, blueberry, sassafras, and shadblow trees that are estimated to be well over 200 years old and have been twisted and shaped by the constant salt spray. Maintained by the Fire Island National Seashore, Sunken Forest earned its name because it appears to be below sea level. Guided tours are available during the summer months.

A natural wonder and beautiful canopy of tangled flora, Fire Island’s Sunken Forest is completely unique. This below sea level hideaway is protected by the National Seashore. A leisurely stroll through Sunken Forest is a fantastic way to spend the day out of the sun, and features some of Fire Island’s best bird watching and wildlife.

Sometimes referred to as "Crown Jewel of Fire Island," the Sunken Forrest is truly a natural wonder. This ancient primeval maritime forest is beautiful canopy of tangled flora is a sea level hideaway protected by majestic dunes that restricts the forest’s abundant growth to consistent heights through a natural phenomenon known as "salt spray pruning." A leisurely stroll through Sunken Forest is a fantastic way to spend the day out of the sun, and features some of Fire Island’s best bird watching and wildlife.

Threats of destruction to the Sunken Forrest for commercial development purposes prompted the establishment of the Sunken Forrest Preserve, Inc. in 1952. Steered by Point O’ Woods resident James N. Dunlop as President at the helm, Sunken Forest Preserve, Inc. began the task of collecting donations from across Fire Island to slowly acquire land parcels within the forest. This campaign is considered the predecessor for the fight to keep Robert Moses from building a highway down the middle of Fire Island for it signaled the ability for Fire Islanders of all communities to unite.

"I sometimes think that it is by such little noticed actions for the public good that the world is held together," wrote author Herman Wouk in a letter dated 1955 along with his contribution check to the cause.

In 1966, after establishment of Fire Island National Seashore the Sunken Forrest Preserve, Inc. transferred over the considerable deed holdings that they had accumulated for more than a decade to the National Park Service. Today FINS manages the Sunken Forrest and the adjacent Sailor’s Haven together making it an incredible public visiting experience. The Sunken Forrest is accessible by ferry from Sayville, NY as well as lateral water taxi and of course private boat with docking at Sailor’s Haven where refreshments and amenities await visitors after a day’s hike.

Experience the peaceful walk alongside the beach with a free guided tour by one of the rangers at Sunken Forest. Throughout the summer, these tours are held 5 days a week. You can explore the Sunken Forest through a half mile long boardwalk. The Sunken forest is about 40 acres of land and is made of mostly sassafras, shadblow and American Holly. It is unique because it is one of the last maritime forests on the Eastern Seaboard that remains. Contrary to what many people believe, the land is not below sea level. It is named "Sunken" because it is formed behind a line of secondary dunes, which makes it look “sunken” from the tops of the dunes. Take a break from the heat of fire island to walk through the cool, shady forest where you feel the breeze of the ocean while listening to the songs of the birds.