Point Lookout, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.

Home People Events Gallery Local Links Contact Us About UsSearch

The Natural History of Point Lookout


Natural History: Point Lookout is on the eastern tip of Long Beach Island which is a barrier beach formed by glacial deposits and the sculpturing power of wind and wave. Its Natural History is described by author Dorothy Sterling in her book The Outer Lands, A Natural History Guide to Cape Cod Martha's Vineyard Nantucket Block Island and Long Island, Natural History Press, Garden City, New York, 1967.
The author describes the origin of our sandy site (grouping us with Rockaway beach):

Waves battered against the gravel banks, carrying away rocks, stones and clay. Undermined by the storms of winter, washed out by spring rains, boulders tumbled from the bluffs. A million times, and a million times a million, the smaller fragments of the glacial till somersaulted along the ocean floor. Pulled by winds and pushed by currents, they were swept out to sea and tossed back to shore. Rocks rubbed against each other. Stones clattered over the surface of the boulders at high tide. Filing, scraping, polishing rough edges, the endless motion of the waves turned the coarse gravel into smooth pebbles and the pebbles into sand.

Over the centuries, the restless ocean laid down a broad border of sand around the Outer Lands. It shaped harbors and bays, carved inlets-and then proceeded to rearrange them. Borrowing newly made sand from the beaches, the waves built bars and shoals offshore. The bars became spits and the spits, peninsulas. The shoals grew into islands and the islands joined to form long barrier beaches. A barrier beach is exactly what its name implies. A narrow strip of sand running parallel to the shore, it acts as a barrier to the ocean. Protecting the land in front of it, it transforms open harbors into sheltered bays.

A glance at a map of the Outer Lands will show the work of the sea. *** Along Long Island's south shore from Coney Island to Southampton the waves have thrown up almost a hundred miles of barrier beaches. Fire Island, Rockaway Beach, Jones Beach-these are all new lands formed since the Ice Age.

For those who are interested, excerpts are provided here.

The result of this enduring enterprise is a barrier beach ecosystem marked with ocean shoreline, bays, marshes, dunes, ponds and bogs, all of which support a variety of flora and fauna.

Flora and Fauna
Long Island and its barrier beaches teem with wildlife. From microscopic plankton to the occasional whale, we find here marine, terrestial and airborne creatures of every sort. They are born here, migrate here to live and die, or seasonly visit here. The wetlands between the barrier beaches such as Long Beach island and the Long Island mainland are a vital nursery at the base end of a food chain nourishing countless species.
Among our Inverterbrate and Vertebrate population you will find:

MackeralTernsAngel wingSponges
HerringLaughing gullsArk shellHermit crabs
CodSparrowBay scallopJellyfish
BluefishBlack duckBoat snailAnemone
Striped bassPloversWhelkStar coral
SwordfishSkimmersChitonBlood worms
SharksSanderlingsMusselClam worms
SkatesSwallowsJingle ShellBarnacles
FlounderHerring gullLimpetLobster
FlukeLaughing gullOysterBlue crab
WeakfishMarsh hawkPeriwinkleFiddler crab
Rock bassEgretQuahogGreen crab
PorgiesGeeseRazor clamHermit crab
TunaNight heronScallopHorse crab
Harbor sealsClapper railSurf clamStarfish
KilliesGreat blue heronMoon snailUrchins
SpearingMarsh hawkSquidSand dollar

This is far from an exhaustive list. More are found in the Outer Lands. That book also list a wide range of Plants including Seaweeds, Lichens, Moss, and Seed plants. As for the latter, the author lists the following

Beach Clotbur
Beach Grass
Beach Heather
Beach Pea
Beach Plum
Beach Wormwood
Black Grass
Black Gum
Broom Crowberry
Cord Grass
Golden Aster
Golden Heather
Highbush Blueberry
Holly tree
Indian Pipe
Jointed Glasswort
Moccasin Flower
Partridge Berry
Pink Azalea
Pitch Pine
Pitcher Plant
Plume Grass
Poison Ivy
Prickly Pear
Red Cedar
Rose Mallow
Rose Pogonia
Salt-meadow Grass
Salt-spray Rose
Sea Blite
Sea Lavender
Sea Rocket
Seabeach Orache
Seabeach Sandwort
Seaside Aster
Seaside Gerardia
Seaside Goldenrod
Seaside Spurge
Scrub Oak
Sheep Laurel
Spike Grass Sundew
Sweet Pepper Bush
Tall Wormwood
Wild Cherry tree
Wild Indigo
Woody Glasswort
Spike Grass
Sweet Pepper Bush
Tall Wormwood
Wild Cherry tree
Wild Indigo
Woody Glasswort

The Dunes
Were it not for the dunes, the barrier beach would be nothing more than a shoal or sandbar. They are the mountains of our shoreline, not high in absolute terms but lofty from the beach perspective. Absent the dune grass, Ammophelia ("sand lover") the dunes would wander with the wind. And anchored or not, they are host to a surprising variety of plant and animal life. Beach plum, Bayberry, Seaside goldenrod, Beach pea and Beach heather find homes in the dunes as do Toads, turtles, rabbits, ants, spiders and scores of other creatures.
dunes at Point Lookout
Dunes at Point Lookout

Early Inhabitants
For at least 9000 years, Native Americans lived on Long Island. Members of the Algonquin tribe, they comprised thirteen communities which peacefully coexisted, spoke a similar language and had individual leaders (sachems). The Merricks occupied the area closest to Point Lookout.
Deer, duck and turkey were hunted, whaling was pursued from dugouts and farming of corn, beans, pumpkins and squash was practised as was the harvesting of shellfish. The shore was a popular source of shells. Indeed, Long Island was known as Si-wan-aki, the Land of Shells. First used for adornment and decoration, shells later became a medium of exchange incorporated into wampum. Beads from the purple Quahog were particularly prized.

The early (1640s) European settlers were Dutch, followed by the English. Relations with the Native Americans were generally good although there were some instances of slavery being practised.

Point Lookout's Name

The name Point Lookout has an interesting origin tied to whale hunting although it also proved apt for rum runners during prohibition. More on this subject here.