ORIENT BEACH STATE PARK
Orient, New York
Take the Belt (Cross Island) Parkway to exit 30. From there, take the Long Island Expressway (Route 495) east about 64 miles to exit 72. Continue east, now on Route 25, about 35 miles; the park entrance is on the right, about nine miles beyond Greenport.
A resident on the North Fork describes the Orient area, with its lovely colonial-style villages and seascapes of Gardiner's Bay and Long Island Sound, as the "most New England piece of real estate on Long Island." The four-mile-long barrier spit known as Orient Beach is definitely reminiscent of parts of Cape Cod -- a place where wind, water, and shifting sands have come together to create a special natural environment. (Audubon guide)
Orient Beach is a product of littoral drift, or the movement and accumulation of sand and gravel by tides, currents, and waves. In this case, the drift is to the west, and over a period of thousands of years it has formed a narrow spit subject to changes in size and form. The beach is steadily eroding along this side, as is evidenced farther down the peninsula by the bleached stumps of once-healthy and -protected red cedar trees. The moving sand is slowly being added on to the western tip of the point.
The beach affords fine views of Gardiner's Island and the Montauk peninsula in the distance. East of Orient Point is a chain of islands beginning with Plum Island, just a mile away, and continuing on to Great Gull and Fisher's Island. Geologists theorize that at one time these islands were connected in a ridge of glacially deposited material that formed the eastern boundary of Long Island Sound when it was a vast freshwater lake of glacial meltwater at the end of the Wisconsin glacial period about 10,000 years ago. When the waters eventually burst through that boundary and the ocean came in, most of the land disappeared, except for the islands still visible from the beach today. (Audubon guide)
Revolutionary War -- the village of Orient, then known as
Oysterponds, commanded by Benedict Arnold (after his failed attempt to turn West
Point over to the British and his defection to the British side).
As the spit narrows to its end, the trees get smaller and smaller until they are shrub size and then disappear. There are steel remains of an old lighthouse stick out of the water. The lighthouse, which burned in an arsonist's fire, can be approached during low tide.
The reddish-purple color of the sandy road is due to the remains of crushed brick and other materials used to stabilize the track when the spit supported a fish factory years ago. Remains of the old factory, including concrete slabs and piles of weathered fishbones and by-products, can be found a little farther along the trail. The remains are found at the ponds, 2.5 miles from the parking area.
1963 -- the lighthouse destroyed by fire. (Later rebuilt.)
1991 -- new lighthouse, known as the "Bug Lighthouse," built.
A small brackish pond, scrub forest, salt marsh, and open beach. At East Beach there is a three-acre Atlantic maritime climax forest dominated by red cedar with an understory dominated by prickly pear cactus.
Ray Dobbins, superintendent of Orient State Park, initiated a nature trail in the pristine west end of the park -- a red cedar maritime forest. (LIBS Newsletter Nov-Dec 1994)
Roy Latham Nature Trail at Orient Beach State Park
July 22, 2000 Mary Laura Lamont; Audubon guide; Geffen and Berglie, 1996: Chapter 26)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Pinus thunbergii (Japanese black pines) planted
Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak)
Quercus stellata (post oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Quercus x bushii (hybrid of black oak and blackjack oak)
Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Myrica pensylvanica (bayberry)
Opuntia humifusa (prickly pear cactus)
Prunus maritima (beach plum)
Rosa rugosa (wrinkled rose)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Bassia hirsuta (bassia)
Glaucium flavum (horn poppy)
Limonium carolinianum (sea lavender)
Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip)
Plantago maritima juncoides (found by Eric Lamont,LIBS Newsletter, Jan-March 2002)
Polygonum glaucum (seaside knotweed)
Polygonum perfoliatum (mile a minute vine) found by Steve Glenn
Salicornia sp. (saltwort)
Sesuvium maritimum -- found by Eric and Mary Laura Lamont, (LIBS Newsletter, Jan-March 2002)
Silene caroliniana (wild pink) (LIBS Newsletter, Oct-Dec 2003)
Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod)
Spartina patens (salt-meadow cordgrass)
Spergularia rubra (sand spurrey)
Distichlis spicata (spikegrass)
Blue Scorpion Grass (Myosotis stricta (micrantha)) found here.
Montauk Daisy (Leucanthemum nipponicum) escapes into the wild at Orient Point.
Source: Guy Tudor. Now You See It, Now You Don't: A selected list of New York and New Jersey wildflowers and flowerings shrubs not covered in the standard regional guides. The Linnaean News Letter. Volume 59, Number 3, May 2005.