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North Fork

Orient Point

 

 

To get to Orient Point from the LIE take Exit 71 to Edwards Ave, cross Route 25 to Sound Ave; turn right. Light traffic, farm stands, and plant nurseries characterize this drive. The entrance to Orient Point State Park is on the right before the ferry to New London; pay $8 at the booth (probably a little more by the time you read this). Travel southwest along a causeway to the parking lot on a narrow 4-mile long spit of land that runs parallel to the mainland. There is a bathhouse, picnic and swimming areas, gift shop, refreshment stand, ball fields, bike and kayak rentals, surf casting, all-terrain wheel chairs, hiking and bike trails.  Contact the park office at (631) 323-2440 for further information.

I walked the Latham Maritime Forest Trail, a nature trail that starts out at the north end of the parking lot, loops a short distance to the east and comes out to the road by the parking area.  I read the informative, free interpretive guide after walking the hike, because clouds of mosquitoes found me every time I stood still, as when I stopped to observe a box turtle dining on a mushroom.

From the parking area, it is a short walk to the beach. Most of the visitors congregate within a few hundred yards of this area.  When you arrive at the beach turn right (west) and leave the crowds behind. Long Beach Bay is to the right, Gardiners Bay to the left. There is an inland trail (sandy road) that takes you to ponds (populated by a large variety of waterfowl) and gives access to the shore of Long Beach Bay.  I walked along the shore instead; the lack of shade and the stiff breeze made this an insect-free walk, and as long as I stayed along the shoreline, I was safe from ticks.  Bleached remains of red cedar along parts of the shore attested to the shifting contours of the shoreline.

When you get to the westernmost tip of Long Beach you will come to the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse (locally called the “Bug” Light).  It marks the entrance to Peconic Bay at the eastern end of Long Island. The original structure was built on pilings.  When the tide went out, it was open underneath hence the nickname of “Bug Light”; at high tide it looked like a giant water bug, the pilings being the legs.  The foundation is now concrete, but the nickname remains.  The end of this spit of land is a bird sanctuary.  Respect all signs and fences.  If it appears that you are disturbing some of the wildlife, back off and give them some room.  When I arrived at the end of the spit, I had obviously disturbed an osprey on its nest.  It screamed at me, left its nest and returned.  Not wanting to disturb it further, I turned around and returned the way I had come instead of rounding the tip.  To the tip and back it was about a 5-mile walk.  Including a swim the walk took 3 hours.

After walking the Long Beach spit, I decided to investigate the entrance to the County Park that I see whenever I complete a “Boston college run” from the New London ferry.  Instead of turning left from the ferry lot, I cut right across the road.  The small parking area abuts a metal gate.  Past the gate is a mile-long trail cut through a heath-like environment characterized by low bushes and evergreens.  The trail itself was a well-trimmed lawn-like surface that eventually led to the north shoreline that can be followed to the very tip of the Island, facing into Plum Gut. Plum Gut is the narrow gap between Orient Point and Plum Island. Oyster Pond Reef, a hidden but dangerous obstacle, lies just beneath the water and extends one-third of the way across Plum Gut. At ebb tide, the waters of Long Island Sound rush through this mile-wide passageway creating fast currents and dangerous riptides.  The “Coffee Pot” and Plum Island lighthouses help facilitate safe passage through the gut.

The Orient Point lighthouse can be seen one half-mile off the tip; beyond it you can see Plum Island with its rock lighthouse sitting atop a bluff.

The simple style of the Orient Point lighthouse reflects a trend at the time it was built for less ornate lighthouses.  The structure nicknamed “The Coffee Pot” by local mariners is similar in design to a number of other Coffee Pot lighthouses built around this time.

It was delightful to see the Orient Point and Plum Island lighthouses from a vantage point other than the New London ferry.  I look forward to taking this short walk to stretch my legs after our next ferry trip.
 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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