Last weekend, family members came to visit the Eastern Shore so we headed to one of our favorite destinations – Chincoteague, which is located on Chincoteague Island, Virginia’s only resort island. Chincoteague is renowned for its annual Pony Swim held every July. Horses run free on the island of Assateague, MD but in mid-July, they are rounded up by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company (Saltwater Cowboys) for a swim to Chincoteague.
The tradition began in 1925, but it wasn't until publication of Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry that it became world famous. A statue in the downtown area is a tribute to Misty. A 1961 film, Misty, was based on the book and shot mainly on location, although the title role was not played by Misty. At the movie’s premier in Chincoteague, the real Misty was led down Main Street and put her front hoof prints in the cement in front of the Island Theatre (now the Roxy Theater).
Chincoteague is a popular tourist stop and the gateway to both Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Until a few months ago, the Chincoteague drawbridge, which dates from 1940, was used for access to the downtown area. It was replaced this spring by a new span.
Why? Although it was still deemed safe, the older drawbridge required more frequent openings for fishing and other vessels and increasing maintenance costs. Also, its age led to some deterioration and costly repairs. Shown below are the old and new bridges.
It’s a beautiful old structure and the subject of many paintings and photographs, especially recently as plans call for dismantling and demolition of the old drawbridge by winter 2010.
Here’s a couple of photos of the replacement bridge, which opened a few months ago. Progress is not always .
Chincoteague NWR is a popular beach destination, even though the busiest summer season has passed. Last weekend, the parking area was full, but strong riptides over the weekend, kept beach goers sitting on the sand instead of swimming.
The Assateague Lighthouse built in 1867 stands 142 feet high and is located on the southern end of Assateague Island within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse is still in active use. It is conical in shape and is painted in alternating bands of red and white. Originally it had a Fresnel lens which has since been replaced with an electronically powered beacon. The grounds also contain a keeper's house and oil house. Throughout the year, local artists display and sell their works in the oil shed.
The lighthouse was last repainted in 1994. In 2004 it was transferred from the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, a $1.5 million, multi-phase restoration project has been started. During the first two phases, the lower gallery deck was replaced along with some of the glass in the lantern room at a cost of $400,000. Fundraising is continuing so that the upper gallery deck can be renovated, additional windows can be replaced, and the entire tower painted.
No visit to Chincoteague would be complete without seeing some of the resident wildlife – great egret, snowy egret, little blue heron, great blue heron and the wild horses.