Fire Island Wilderness Camping

I’m planning to drive to fire island, NY this summer and parking at the watch hill ranger station. Then launching my boat(on the protected bay side) and paddling into the 8-mile wilderness area, landing, and camping for a night or two. Have any of you guys done this before? I can find very little information about the wilderness area itself, except for the backcountry camping regulations. And I can’t find any trip reports on the net from someone who has done this. It seems like it could be a very cool trip, can anyone comment on this???

Done that…
A friend and I did this last fall, except we launched through the surf and landed on the ocean side. We parked next to the ranger station at the top by Camp Smith. (ask the ranger, they can unlock the gate if it’s locked). Can’t camp on primary dunes but you can on the secondary ones. The reason we did not launch on the bay side is that my friend who is from NYC says there isn’t as good a takeout as on the beach, it’s very marshy and soft and seemingly sort of requires some bushwacking to get to decent camping ground. Landing on the surf, you’ve got easy access to portage across the beach and up onto the dunes. The rangers there are friendly and can advise you a lot about the conditions. You will see lots of evidence of the deer population and there is a danger of lyme disease via the ticks so be careful. Bugs can also be a major problem.


How difficult was it to launch and land on the ocean side of the island? I’ve never done a surf launch, but want to try it. Thanks for the tip that the bay side is marshy. Could have been a bad move… Did you see any other backpackers or paddlers out there?

My XP.

– Last Updated: Apr-04-05 11:00 AM EST –

Nope, just some fisherman fishing the surf. Did see a guy in a WW playboat or something similar playing in the waves. Did not see anybody else camping in the backcountry.

Launching through the surf wasn't bad, I helped my friend out who is heavier than me and had a heavier boat and then launched myself. The hardest part of launching is keeping my Impex Mystic pointed in the right direction while waiting for the right time. I'm only 130lbs and even though my mystic was loaded for the night with gear, it was very easy for the slightest wave to knock you around.

Surf Landing though is scary!!! it's like try to time it such that you don't completely wipe out and get sucked back in. Then there's the mad rush to get out if you do manage to turn it sideways in the surf. The couple of times we did, we had to really pick a good spot and then try your hand at a rudder stroke. Managed to do it very well once and then managed to wipe out once on the return.

Not bad for my first surf launch/landing but of course, need more XP.

I'm sure there has to be some better landings from the bay side, but we aren't locals and I've never been there so I wouldn't know. If you launch from the bay side, you could scout out the shoreline to see if there is any good spots, I'm sure they're there, but I don't know the area enough.

P.S. If you do go on the surf side, do not leave your kayak on the beach. Cars/rangers drive back and forth along the sand and at dawn or so, might not see your gear there. It's worth it to drag it up past the beach area til you get to the vegetation. We didn't drag our kayaks to our actual campsite and just put that off the beach area. No problems at all, but of course, this was after labor day and the park wasn't that busy.


I’m the friend Jay was with (hey Jay).
I’m the friend Jay was with (hey Jay).

I know of one legal landing on the bayside: Old Inlet, a dock on the bayside and boardwalk to the ocean. This area has poor camping no real secondary dunes, a good amount of scrub and is only an hours paddle at most from the Ranger Station but it does have a privy. I would consider this to be a carry out your solid waste area. The book Sea kayaking Along the Mid Atlantic Coast has a trip that indicates camping at the actual site of old inlet, before it filled in located among the marshes. I couldn’t find this site. Most of this area, most of the bayside that I’ve seen, is all marsh. I plan on spending a day there looking for a landing as soon as the water is warm or I get a real wet suit, there should be something.

I thought the ocean side easily had the potential to get dicey. The shore drops off pretty quickly in places at the wrong time it would not be fun there’s potential for a dumping surf, but then again I’m a beginner. Day 1 was wonderful with a cooperative gentle surf, but day two the wind changed and the surfers were out. I damaged a connector on my folder that trip.

I grew up fishing the eastern inslet of Fire island so I know the area somewhat. Ticks are a problem and there is a huge deer population. The bayside, just not near the marshes is known for mucky silty sand, my father has found himself up to his chest and a mother & child drowned when the sand gave out quicksand style when I was growing up. You can launch bayside from Smith Point Park in the SE corner, though you may have to still park at the ranger station. There’s a bay access from the ranger station lot, but it’s about a 1/4 mile over boardwalk and sand. I get the impression that most campers enter through Watch Hill. via ferry and camp in that half of the reserve.

Hi Warren!
Just saying hello. See ya in Kingston this weekend?

It’s going to be paddling weather soon, at least in air temps.