Norton Point Oversand Driving Permits are available at the County Administration Building through the Treasurer's Office.
Norton Point Beach is an important barrier beach between Katama Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This is approximately 2.5 mile long beach and its width varies from 95 feet to approximately 300 feet. A couple years ago the barrier beach was breached by a big storm. Today a channell exists between the Katama Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The photographs to the right were taken after the blizzard of January 23-24, 2005, which dumped from 24 to 30 inches of snow on the island. The sand fencing in the first photograph is there to keep pedestrians out of the dunes in the warmer weather. But the drifts that accumulated to the near side of the sand fence were four feet deep. This storm left much larger drifts elsewhere on the beach and closed it to vehicular traffic for about two weeks. The lower photo shows the ice cakes and chunks of frozen sand that accumulate at the upper end of the wave wash on the ocean side of the beach.
Location: At the end of the left fork in Katama
Size: 254 acres / Approximately 2.5 miles long
Owned by: County of Dukes County
Managed by: County of Dukes County
Overall, Norton Point is losing an average of 10 feet per year, but this is a localized phenomenon. The eastern part of the beach has eroded significantly in the past five years. The large dunes (up to 16 feet above sealevel) that survived Hurricane Bob in 1991 and remained stable through the 1990s are now completely gone, and the beach that was 500 to 600 feet wide is now 200 to 300 feet wide. This erosion contrasts to the western half of the beach, which generally has re-established a wide beach between the dunes and ocean.
There is also an annual cycle of erosion and accretion. Storms with strong southerly winds tend to take sand from the beach and deposit it in an off-shore sand bar, while calmer seas tend to move sand back onto the beach from the off-shore bar. Generally this means that the beach erodes between the Hurricane season that starts in August and the middle of winter, while it accretes between the middle of winter and early summer. This conveniently leaves a wide beach for the summer.
The ability of the calm summer ocean to move sand with its three foot swells is readily observed by anyone swimming there. The power of these smaller waves is shown in the longshore current, which typically moves west to east. A swimmer generally gets out of the water east of where they went into the water. And the volume of sand that ends up in your swimsuit is evidence of the amount of sand that is carried by this longshore current.
Norton Point Beach supports a diverse assembleage of nesting birds, including the Federally Threatened piping plover, the State Species of Special Concern least tern and the American oystercatcher. Their nesting success varies from year to year. For more information go to Nesting Shorebirds
The tidal flats on the bay side of Norton Point Beach are one of the best places on the island to go looking for migrating shorebirds. While a spotting scope is helpful, almost any binoculars will be good enough since we can normally get quite close to these birds. (Photo at right by Patrick Bradley)
Sunrises and sunsets are the best times for catching fish along the entire length of Norton Pont Beach. The great fishing begins when the small striped bass arrive sometime between late April and early May. Bluefish and the bigger bass show up in mid to late May, remaining in the area until late June. The preferred technique at this time of the year is plugging - using surface lures like Robert’s Rangers, or Sporford’s Ballistic Missiles. If the fish are not on top then go to mettle, Cast Masters, and Hopkins. Starting in early September good fishing for striped bass and bluefish resumes and continues into November. There are always large fish around at this time of the year, a change from the past when the large bass used to arrive near the end of the derby and into November. The preferred technique at this time of the year is bottom fishing using bait. Bonito and albacore are not commonly caught here. And we no longer see the large schools of bunker that used to come in late in the fall. The heavy surf makes fly fishing on Norton Point Beach rather difficult. In the spring when there are big schools of Blues right in the surf it can be fun with the fly rod, but in the fall people go to bait because the action is slow, with only one or two fish caught in five to six hours.