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Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area

Flax Pond Locator Map

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Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area was acquired by the state in 1966 under the joint jurisdiction of DEC and Stony Brook University. The 152-acre property includes the majority of Flax Pond and wetlands (128.2 acres) and adjacent upland (24 acres), as well as Childs Mansion and the Flax Pond Marine Lab (leaves DEC website). DEC manages the acreage for habitat protection and nature enjoyment by the public, while the university manages primarily for research and education.

A free seasonal access permit is required for using this property.

Users must observe regulations for use of DEC-managed lands in Suffolk County.

Featured Activities



General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

A short accessible 0.3-mile trail leads from the parking area and into the wetland, following along a boardwalk across the water.



Wildlife Management Unit: 1C

General information on hunting includes how-to and safety tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Waterfowl hunting is allowed anywhere on the property, except on areas marked as restricted or excluded. There is a restricted zone surrounding the Childs Mansion and Flax Pond Marine Lab (see map). Please abide by all hunting regulations. Consult hunting on Long Island for information on hunting opportunities and obtaining hunting permits.

For questions related to hunting on this property, call the Stony Brook office at 631-444-0310.



General information on fishing includes how-to and safety tips and links to seasons, rules, and regulations.

Fishing is allowed in Flax Pond and on the beach. Look for winter flounder, bluefish and striped bass. The pond is classified as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish, however.



General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Paddling is allowed but the water level is affected by the tide stages, making the inlet impassable at times. There is no dedicated boat launch but canoes and kayaks can be launched by hand from the water's edge.


wildlife viewing

General information on animals includes links to information about birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects that inhabit or migrate through the state.

The property is an example of a mature maritime forest, a rare ecosystem in New York State. It includes several specimen-sized hickory, sassafras, and American holly trees. There is plentiful native wildlife, including mammals such as deer, red fox and rabbits, and birds such as belted kingfisher, snowy egret, hawks and herons. You may also find fiddler crabs, blue crabs, winter flounder, bluefish and striped bass.

Flax Pond is also a home to several species that are threatened and endangered at either the state or federal level, including piping plover, short-eared owl, pied-billed grebe, least tern, common tern and osprey.

Accessible Features


General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

The parking area and the trail and boardwalk across the water are accessible for people of all abilities.


The property is located on Shore Drive in East Setauket in the Town of Brookhaven. Users can park at the Flax Pond Marine Lab to access the property.

  • Flax Pond Marine Lab parking area (40.960778°N, 73.138744°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website).

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations and Outdoor Safety

Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.

All users of Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Specific Regulations

The following are prohibited at Flax Pond:

  1. Operation or use of motorized, wheeled or tracked vehicles
  2. Overnight camping
  3. Fire (any type)
  4. Unleashed dogs, except those used in permitted hunting
  5. Removal or damage to trees or other vegetation
  6. Construction or maintenance of permanent blinds or other structures
  7. Littering or dumping of waste materials, including garden clippings

How We Manage Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area

Flax Pond is managed as described in Public Use of State-Owned Tidal Wetlands (leaves DEC website). DEC is developing a unit management plan (UMP) which will describe the management activities for these lands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP will contain detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us at


Flax Pond

Flax Pond was a fresh water pond and marsh, formed 20,000 years ago when glaciers laid down the huge accumulation of soil, sand, and boulders that shapes Long Island's north shore. Originally called Fresh Pond, it derives its name from its use in the 18th Century as site for watering cattle and for "retting" flax which was eventually processed into linen.

In the late 1700's, the domestic flax market was no longer profitable so the decision was made to turn it into a shellfishing area. In 1803, an inlet was dug connecting the marsh to Long Island Sound, creating a salt marsh. Over time the inlet remained relatively permanent but its orientation would change due to storms and sediment transport. After World War II, inlet jetties were installed.

After opening the inlet, oysters and clams soon colonized the marsh and a profitable shellfishing industry began. These operations continued until recently when the entire pond was classified as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish.

Childs Mansion

Childs Mansion, a wooden, three-story building, was the main house of Crane Neck Farm when the entire Flax Pond peninsula was under single ownership. Portions of the house date to the 1700s. In 1902, it was sold to Eversley Childs.

Under Childs' ownership, a miniature replica of the Brooklyn Bridge was built immediately to the west of the current footbridge that crosses a narrow channel in Flax Pond. The bridge supported the rails of a tramway used by the Childs family and house guests to get from the mansion to the beach. This bridge was destroyed by the 1938 Long Island Express hurricane.

In the 1990s, Stony Brook University refurbished the home. Today it serves as a guest house and conference facility for the university.

Flax Pond Marine Lab

In 1965, the State University of New York (SUNY) and the New York State Conservation Department, predecessor of today's DEC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly acquire the Flax Pond property for "...the perpetual use of the State University of New York (SUNY) and the Conservation Department."

DEC's purchase of the property was made with 1960 Parks and Recreation Bond Act funds. This act designated acquisitions for outdoor recreational uses such as hunting, fishing and camping.

In 1969, DEC constructed the Flax Pond Marine Laboratory (leaves DEC website). Flax Pond is a complete salt marsh system in miniature, protected from the stresses caused by human activity. It is currently being used by Stony Brook University scientists to study finfish and shellfish ecology, seaweed growth, and the effects of persistent pollutants, particularly PCBs, on the growth and species diversity of planktonic communities.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Gas can be found in the nearby communities of East Setauket, Port Jefferson and Stony Brook.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of East Setauket and Port Jefferson.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of East Setauket and Port Jefferson.
Lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Port Jefferson and Stony Brook.

Discover Long Island (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.

Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.

Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.