You can add Fire Island National Seashore in New York to the growing list of National Park System units with an online reservation system for backcountry camping. While the seashore won't charge you per night in the backcountry, there is a $20 reservation fee.
Fire Island's reservation system is for permits to camp in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness. A limited number of wilderness/backcountry camping permits are issued for overnight stays in the Fire Island wilderness, so reservations will provide potential campers with the assurance that space will be available when they arrive.
Group size is limited, and the maximum length of stay is three consecutive nights. Campers must be prepared to hike from one to five miles down the beach to reach the designated wilderness camping zones, and must carry in (and carry out) everything needed for this primitive camping experience.
Since the breach at Old Inlet has cut off access to the wilderness camping areas, campers staying in both the eastern camping zone and the western camping zone must now check in at Watch Hill Visitor Center, a half-hour ferry ride from Patchogue. The Watch Hill VC reopens on May 25. (Permits are not currently issued at the Wilderness Visitor Center.)
"Permits were previously issued on a first-come, first-served basis," said John Mahoney, concessions specialist and special park uses coordinator for the Seashore, "but more people have been using this resource in recent years. The new reservation system will help us better serve our visitors and better protect park resources, too."
Camping is also available at the Watch Hill Campground, operated for the Seashore by Fire Island Concessions, LLC, for campers who prefer to be closer to the restrooms, snack bar and other amenities. Reservations for this campground, accessible by passenger ferry from Patchogue or by private boat, may be made online. There is a $25 nightly fee for each campsite at the Watch Hill Campground, with a two-night minimum for Friday and Saturday night stays.
For more information about programs or camping in the Fire Island Wilderness, contact the Division of Interpretation at 631-687-4780 (weekdays) or 631-281-3010 (weekends).