Wasque
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About Wasque

This southeastern corner of Martha’s Vineyard is undergoing dramatic change due to the seismic currents which are re-shaping this coastal reservation on a daily basis. Since that April 2007 storm cut nearby Norton Point Beach in half, the resulting breach has slowly marched towards Wasque Point. The approaching breach will someday reattach Norton Point Beach at Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick’s southeast corner, but before it does, expect to see hundreds of feet of beach, upland and salt marsh lost to the sea. If you are thrilled with the sight and feel of nature’s unbridled power to change our Earth, you will not want to miss visiting Wasque.

What makes Wasque a special place?
Chappaquidick, the easternmost natural appendage of Martha’s Vineyard, suggests a small replica of the larger land mass: an island of upland woods, coastal heath, protected bays, and barrier beaches. However, as noted above, Wasque is at the epicenter of dynamic coastal change which is all part of a cycle of natural barrier beach openings which help cleanse Edgartown Harbor of layers of built-up silt and mud and replaces it with sand. This flushing of Edgartown Harbor is expected to bring a boon to the area’s recreational and commercial shellfisheries and provides new opportunities for shore anglers.

The almost 1,000 acres of preserved land here – encompassing Wasque, Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Mytoi, and Norton Point Beach – offer plenty of places to explore on one’s own, or with family and friends, year-round.

A Coastal Playground on Martha’s Vineyard
If you love to get outside, Wasque (“way-skwee”) is your “must-see” coastal experience on the Vineyard. For generations, visitors and residents alike have fond memories of sweeping white sand beaches, Wasque Point’s stairs and boardwalks onto the long beach and the peaceful feeling of a land stopped in time. Today, Wasque is in transition—undergoing what many Native Vineyarders remember from long ago. The stairs and boardwalks have been swept into the sea, the beach at Wasque Point is gone and, where once the Swan Pond provided a scenic backdrop for nesting geese and swans. Now, the Swan Pond is gone and the Wasque Point beach is nothing more than a thin strip of sand at the base of towering sand cliffs which end in the surf. Chappaquiddick Island has once again become a true island — no longer connected to the Vineyard by Norton Point Beach. Wasque Swimming Beach is still present, but expect changes to happen on this beach on the southern side of Chappaquiddick to happen. Shifting sandbars, strong long-shore currents and the rapidly moving Breach will likely erode great portions of the swimming beach. Watch for swimming warnings as conditions warrant.

Like the herons and egrets that congregate here to fish, saltwater anglers find Wasque a fine destination for striped bass and bluefish. Hikers will find .5 miles of trails to follow, through a habitat of rare sand barrens.

Nature watchers can sit back and observe many bird species, including sandpipers, Piping plovers, terns and other shorebirds at the surf line and ospreys hovering over the water’s surface, preparing to dive onto a fish. Poucha Pond contain marshes that offer habitat for great blue herons, egrets, migrating shorebirds, and ducks. Children will love spotting monarch butterflies as they feed on the flowers of the Northern Blazing Star before migrating south, while parents and caregivers scan for less dramatic appearing butterflies and moths such as mourning cloaks, sulphurs, and red admirals, which appear annually.

An Ancient History
To the geologist, Wasque is an excellent example of a glacially-deposited land form. Its dry, acidic, sandy soil nurtures an oak and pine forest, sandplain grasslands, and heathlands. Windy conditions, grazing, and fires have kept forests from taking hold here.

Trails
Due to the recent and dramatic beach erosion, there are no accessible oversand-vehicle trails but we still have .5 miles of walking trails and sandy roads in the upland area.

Advisories: Due to strong and changing currents, swimming at Wasque can be hazardous. Use caution at all times and if in doubt, don’t go in the water! The sand cliffs at Wasque can be particularly dangerous. Don’t go near the edge of the cliffs as they tend to be undercut and you may be standing on nothing more than a thin layer of ground — stay at least 10 feet from the edge of all of Wasque’s cliffs. At low tide, you may be tempted to venture around the base of these extensive cliffs, but falling trees and other hazards can block your escape route when the tide comes in. Avoid swimming in areas where seals are present. The growing population of seals on the sand islands off of Wasque’s shores may attract feeding sharks.

Use common sense – be safe, be wary and respect the power and beauty of nature from a safe distance!

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, 24 hours. Allow a minimum of 1 hour, longer if also visiting Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and/or Mytoi.

Facilities
Public restrooms. Picnic tables. Bike rack. Limited handicapped-accessible transportation.

Regulations & Advisories

Advisories: Due to strong and changing currents, swimming at Wasque can be hazardous. Use caution at all times and if in doubt, don’t go in the water! The sand cliffs at Wasque can be particularly dangerous. Don’t go near the edge of the cliffs as they tend to be undercut and you may be standing on nothing more than a thin layer of ground — stay at least 10 feet from the edge of all of Wasque’s cliffs. At low tide, you may be tempted to venture around the base of these extensive cliffs, but falling trees and other hazards can block your escape route when the tide comes in. Avoid swimming in areas where seals are present. The growing population of seals on the sand islands off of Wasque’s shores may attract feeding sharks.

Use common sense – be safe, be wary and respect the power and beauty of nature from a safe distance!

  • Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

  • Bikes are permitted on trails only - not on the beach.

  • There is no longer oversand vehicle access to Wasque via The Trustees' Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge due to severe beach erosion at Wasque Point.

  • When bringing a vehicle across, please be aware that summer ferry lines to Chappaquidick Island may exceed 1 hour. Walk-on passengers rarely have to wait more than 7 minutes.

  • The Trustees of Reservations reserves the right to restrict or close oversand vehicle permit (OSV) trails and pedestrian walkways due to erosion, nesting shorebirds, the presence of rare or endangered species, or for any other reason pertaining to the safety needs of visitors and/or wildlife.

Directions

Wasque Road, Chappaquiddick Island
Martha’s Vineyard, MA 02539
Telephone: 508.627.3599
Email: capepoge@ttor.org

Latitude: 41.3552
Longitude: -70.4597

Get directions in Google Maps.

From Edgartown–Chappaquiddick ferry, take Chappaquiddick Rd. 2.5 mi. At sharp right curve in road, bear right onto School Rd. and follow for 0.8 mi. At second sharp curve in road, bear left onto Wasque Rd. (turns into a dirt road) and follow for 1.2 mi. to entrance and parking (90 cars) at end.

Admission

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, 24 hours. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours, longer if also visiting Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and/or Mytoi.

Fees and Permits
Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day Weekend: Trustees Members: Free; Nonmembers: $3; Children (15 & under): FREE; Parking: $3.

Please note: due to erosian, Wasque is no longer open to oversand vehicle access.

Property History

Native Americans camped at Wasque (from “wannasque,” an Algonquin word meaning “the ending”) during the warmer months of the year. Settlement by colonists from Europe did not arrive on this part of Chappaquiddick until at least 1750. Land speculation in the late 19th century resulted in several large, upscale development proposals that never came to be.

One proposal, dubbed “Chappaquiddick-by-the-Sea,” included 750, quarter-acre plots laid out in a grid system and set along imagined streets and broad avenues with parks and clubhouses and docking facilities for yachts. In the end, only a handful of homes were built in the area before the reservation was established.

Property Acquisition History
Purchased in 1967

Programs

Tours
The Trustees offer a selection of guided and self-guided tours that help adults and children alike explore the natural wonders of Wasque and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. All guided tours are led by expert naturalists. You may also download our Martha's Vineyard tour brochure 2014.

Claire Saltonstall Education Program
Educational programs for Martha's Vineyard school children are offered throughout the year. For more information, contact the Education and Interpretation Program Coordinator Molly Peach at mpeach@ttor.org.

Conservation and Stewardship

Management Planning for Our Properties
 


Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
 


  • Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources. 

  • Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.

  • Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.

  • Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.


View Wasque management plan.

Maps and Resources

Printed trail maps are distributed free from the bulletin board in the parking area. Please understand that supplies periodically run out. We suggest downloading a trail map in advance of your visit.

Some publications are also available for purchase at the Islands Regional Office at 508.693.7662.

Additional resources:



Planning Your Visit

Before You Visit

Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:

  • Protect wildlife and plants.
  • Guard against all risk of fire.
  • Help keep air and water clean.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
  • Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
  • Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
  • Enjoy and share the landscape with others.

Click on links below for further visitor information:

Before Setting Out

Enjoying Trustees Reservations

Safety

About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land

Tell Us What You Think

We’d love to hear about your visit! Here are three easy ways to let us know what you think:

  1. Take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us, you can ask us in the survey and we’ll get back to you.

  2. Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.

  3. Share your experiences with other visitors on our website. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll post your comment right here on this page.


Submitted by ilyage on: August 10, 2010
Not sure if anyone has realized it, but the beach in front of Swan Pond (the portion close to Wasque point where you cannot swim and few people walk) was covered by Tarball (from Gulf spill?) last Sunday. They varied from very small to 4-6 inches in size. Cleanup is definitely required.



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Announcements & Alerts

Due to strong and changing currents, swimming at Wasque can be hazardous.

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2014 Martha's Vineyard Tour Brochure >>

Upcoming Things To Do
No events for this reservation at this time.
Other Trustees Properties You Might Like:

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge
Chappaquiddick Island, Martha's Vineyard

Long Point Wildlife Refuge
Martha's Vineyard, MA

Mytoi
Chappaquiddick Island, MA