Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Northern Assateague Island, Worcester County

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Assateague Island is a barrier island on Maryland's Atlantic coast. This is a view of northern Assateague Island, looking north toward Ocean City, Maryland. The gray roads and parking lots are part of Maryland's popular Assateague State Park. The island forms a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and Worcester County. In terms of geologic time, barrier islands are ephemeral features; dynamic testaments to the inexorable rise of the ocean. Sea levels along the Atlantic coast have been rising for thousands of years and will continue to rise until the beginning of a new ice age. As the ocean rises these islands are pushed westward toward the mainland by waves and currents.

Assateague Island
Assateague Island

The eastward-curving hook of sand in the center of the photo is the northern tip of Assateague, which ends at the Ocean City Inlet. North of this point, the southern end of Fenwick Island and Ocean City can be seen through the haze. Notice how the tip of Assateague is greatly offset to the west of Fenwick Island. The stabilization of Ocean City Inlet in the 1930's has starved northern Assateague beaches of sand, accelerating the westward migration of the island.

For information on Assateague