Landscapes: Assateague Island | National Park Foundation

Maryland and Virginia

Nestled along the coast between the Atlantic Ocean and Sinepuxent and Chincoteague Bays, Assateague Island hosts an enchanting herd of wild horses made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book Misty of Chincoteague.

Though local folklore tells of a shipwreck depositing the animals, it’s more likely that they descended from tame horses brought here in the late 1600s by mainlanders looking for a tax-free grazing area. As a unique wild horse society, the ponies run free on the Maryland side of the island.

The landscape here is as dynamic as its favorite inhabitant— tough, wild and constantly evolving. Increasingly harsh storms and rising sea levels shape and reshape the barrier island’s form. Find out more about this unique landscape at

Need help planning your next national park adventure? Filled with detailed maps, travel tips and inside information on what not to miss, NPF’s Owner’s Guide is your one-stop resource to discover all of the over 400 national parks. Download a FREE copy today!



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