Chincoteague Island: Ecotourism Paradise by:Sam Serio
Although the Chincoteague ponies may roam barefoot and free on the wilds of Assateague
Island for most of their lives, horseshoes are still readily found on both Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. They're horseshoe crabs, and they have an enormous role to play in making Chincoteague Island an ecotourism Paradise. Why?
Because the horseshoe crabs choose to lay their eggs in the sand and mud flats of Toms Cove Hook, making those areas prime feeding grounds for the huge flocks of shorebirds which descend on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands each year. Sandpipers, red knots, dunlin, sanderlings, and ruddy turnstones all thrive on the horseshoe crab eggs. Thousands of birding ecotourists come to Chincoteague each year to view the feasting shorebirds.
But there are many more natural wonders attracting ecotourists to Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. The islands' position along the Atlantic Flyway makes them are ideal rest stops and nesting areas for the hundreds of bird species which settle in their marshes, forests, and waterways. Eagles and ospreys soar overhead searching for prey. Swans, geese, and ducks of all varieties grace the islands' glades and ponds. The calls of colorful songbirds fill the air above the many nature trails in the islands' pine forests, and their hidden waterways invite long, lazy afternoons of kayaking and canoeing while watching for ponies and other wildlife.
Ecotourists who want to share the same bird's-eye view of Assateague and Chincoteague so familiar to their feathered friends can head for the 142-foot tall Assateague Island Light House. Built in 1867 and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the red-and-white striped light house guides ships attempting to navigate the barrier islands and its light is visible form 22 nautical miles away.
Pony viewing, of course, is a favorite pastime for those visiting Chincoteague's ecotourism Paradise, and during warm weather the ponies are commonly found roaming Assateague's beaches to escape the heat and humidity of their normal inland haunts. They have the run of the Island, and think nothing of stopping traffic while they amble across the roads!
While sun and water worshippers can crowd some of the Assateague Island beaches during the height of summer, there are plenty of opportunities for the solitude-seeking ecotourist as well. Assateague's paved roads are only seven miles in length, and on the Maryland side of the island the only way to catch a glimpse of the Maryland ponies is by foot or water. On the Virginia side, in the Chincoteague Island Wildlife refuge, there are five public hiking trails.
Many ecotourists, however, prefer to leave civilization behind by heading out along the beach from Toms Cove on the 13-mile trek ending at the state line public campground. Or they paddle their way along the Chincoteague Bay shoreline to reach campsites at Jim's Gut, Tingle Bay, Pine Tree, or Pope's Bay for an overnight stay.
Each of the three biospheres on Assateague Island's Maryland side have something unique to offer ecotourists. They are accessible by three separate trails, introducing hikers to the Life of the marsh; the Life of the Dune; and the Life of the Forest. A climb to the Life of the Forest Trail's observation deck will reward you with a breath stopping view of Chincoteague Bay and a clear understanding of what makes Chincoteague and Assateague Islands a true ecotourism Paradise!
About the author
Sam Serio is an advocate for Chincoteague Island tourism. Chincoteague Island is the premier eco-tourism destination on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. To learn more about this amazing island with stunning natural beauty, please visit, http://www.chincotagueislandvacations.com
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