Description - Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1944 to provide habitat for migratory birds. Sand stretches for eight miles off the elbow of Cape Cod, forming the barrier islands of North and South Monomoy. In addition to the two islands, a 40-acre unit on Morris Island is also part of the refuge. This is where the headquarters and visitor center are located. The total size of the refuge is 7,604 acres with varied habitats of oceans, salt and freshwater marshes, dunes, and freshwater ponds. The refuge provides important resting, nesting and feeding habitat for migratory birds, including the Federally protected piping plover and roseate tern. More than ten species of seabirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds nest on the islands. The refuge also supports the second largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard with over 8,000 nesting pairs.
- This barrier beach island refuge extends south from the elbow of Cape Cod. It consists of three islands: a portion of Morris Island accessible by causeway, and north and south Monomoy islands accessible by boat only.
Ninety-four percent of the Refuge is designated Wilderness. The refuge is managed primarily for migratory birds including the threatened piping plover. It is a major staging area for the endangered roseate tern. Harbor and gray seals haul out on refuge beaches in winter.
Recreation - There are structured educational programs avalable for schools, universities, and professionl groups.
Currently sportfishing is permitted on Monomoy and is an important activity. Surf fishing is regulated according to Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Laws. Recreational anglers are not required to have a Massachusetts State license for saltwater fishing. Shellfishing is allowed on the Refuge and recreational shellfishermen require local permits from the Town of Chatham and must follow local regulations. Recreational shellfish permits are issued for Town residents and non-residents.
The refuge headquarters and visitor center are located on Morris Island and contains exhibits, informative brochures and a bookstore. Informative signs are located along the 3/4-mile Morris Island trail. Guided walks on the Morris Island trail are conducted in the summer. Call the refuge for more information.
A 3/4-mile nature trail is located on Morris Island and winds through a variety of coastal habitats. Overlooks along the trail provide views of the refuge's North and South Monomoy Islands. A trail leads you to the Monomoy Lighthouse on South Monomoy Island. North and South Monomoy Islands are accessible by boat only. You may reach the islands by private boats or, in season, by commercial ferry. Portions of the islands may be closed seasonally; check ahead by contacting the refuge visitor center. There is road access to Morris Island, with limited parking available at the visitor center.
Climate - Massachusetts experiences four distinct seasons with slightly varying temperatures in the inland and coastal regions. Along the coast the water is a moderating factor that often prevents large amounts of snowfall from accumulating through the winter. Summer temperatures are usually cooler than low lying inland areas, due to ocean breezes. This region of the country experiences high humidity in the summer season and temperatures that average close to 80 degrees F. Fall and Spring are pleasant times to visit the region with crisp air and low humidity. Brilliant foliage colors can be found in the central and western regions of the state in late September and October. Winter temperatures can be brutally cold on occasion with a humidity-filled wind, but on average winter daytime temperatures reach 35 degrees F and lows reach into the teens. Spring is usually the wettest time of year, but trees, bushes and flowers are blooming by early May.
To reach the refuge headquarters and visitor center on Morris Island, take U.S. Route 6 east to State Route 137 south to State Route 28. Take Route 28 east to the rotary in the center of Chatham. From the rotary take Main Street, up the hill to a T-intersection. Turn right and proceed past the Chatham Lighthouse and Coast Guard Station. Bear left after the lighthouse onto Morris Island Road, then take the first right. Follow Morris Island Road to signs for the refuge on the left.