Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
At the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, visitors can explore the rich natural ecosystems that make Wellfleet Bay one of Cape Cod’s most important wildlife habitats. This peaceful wildlife sanctuary encompasses salt marshes, sandy barrier beaches, and pine woodlands, and is home to threatened shorebirds, sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, and horseshoe crabs.
Five miles of trails run through the 937-acre wildlife sanctuary, giving visitors an opportunity to explore all of the sanctuary’s diverse ecosystems. On the Try Island Trail visitors can catch glimpses of Cape Cod Bay through a thick blanket of oaks and hickory trees, while visitors can spot herons, sandpipers, and swallows in the salt marshes that line the Boardwalk.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary features a nature center that hosts exhibits, maintains aquariums and runs educational programs for visitors. These fascinating educational programs include summer camps for children, wildlife cruises in Cape Cod Bay, and the Cape Cod Field School, where adults can learn about the nature preserve’s unique coastal environment.
The wildlife sanctuary is also actively engaged in research projects designed to understand and protect the area’s declining, threatened, and endangered animal species. Every year, the sanctuary monitors the nesting and foraging areas of Piping Plovers and terns, maps osprey nests, helps restore shellfish habitats, and rescues sea turtles stranded on the outer cape.
Wellfleet is home to the world’s most northerly population of diamondback terrapin, a species of turtle that lives exclusively in the brackish water of coastal marshes. In the nineteenth century, fishermen hunted this turtle species nearly to extinction. Today, diamondback terrapin populations have mostly recovered, although the turtles remain a threatened species in Massachusetts.
Members of Mass Audubon can camp overnight at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s campground has twenty campsites with picnic tables, as well as flush toilets, hot showers, and garbage bins for campers. The family-friendly facility promotes leave-no-trace camping with a ban on open fires, pets, hard-top trailers, large vans, and truck bed units.