The Westbrook Barrier Islands

Part of the Westbrook waterfront, Salt, Menunketesuck and Duck Islands provide people a picturesque view of Long Island Sound and protection for the town’s harbor. Opportunities to boat and fish in the water surrounding them, and the opportunity to view bird life and sea life - such an important commodity on LI Sound – is tremendous. The shoals around these islands, and the mudflats of the shore, also provide rich foraging grounds for birds and sport fishermen alike. Collectively the islands have been designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. 

Menunketesuck Island, a long sand and rock spit located at the mouth of the Menunketesuck River, was named for the Native Americans who once lived in the area. One of the most interesting episodes in its history happened in 1893 when the townspeople found a pirate camp there and put an end to the looting of harbor-side houses that had occurred that year. Today the island is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and serves as important habitat for a variety of birds throughout the year including terns, herons and the colorful oystercatcher.

Duck Island, a natural preserve owned by the State of Connecticut, once served as a hospital for smallpox victims. Today a chimney from a long-abandoned building and a set of stairs are all that remain of a human existence there. The long stone jetty on the island’s west side supports its reputation as a safe harbor. Duck Island hosts a major colony of long-legged waders including egrets, herons and ibises. In the summer, the bird population is quite evident and people often observe the white plumage of great egrets and snowy egrets nesting in the treetops. Other important species, such as dunlin, appear in winter. 

Salt Island, the smallest of the three barrier islands, can be viewed and easily accessed from the town’s Middle Beach at the end of Salt Island Road. In the late 1800s, salt and fish oil were produced on the island. Sailing ships were loaded and unloaded here while their cargo of lumber, fruits, vegetables and the like was carted to and from the mainland at low tide. At that time, the island was described as the heart of commerce for the town. Although the bustling trade center is now gone, today Salt Island is an attractive destination for shorebirds to feed, reproduce and rest throughout the year. It is also a perfect place for people to discover interesting marine creatures and unique habitats. 

Stewart B. McKinney NWR is happy to partner with members of the community and the Town of Westbrook, the State DEEP, Audubon Connecticut and the Friends of the Westbrook Barrier Islands to protect these important resources.

What You Can Do To Help 

Rules to keep in mind:

- Respect island closed areas and string fencing  

- Keep pets off the island, as they are not allowed there

- Do not touch birds or eggs, and walk carefully as nests are well-camouflaged

Join the Friends of the Westbrook Barrier Islands 

The Friends, formed in 2012, are a group of individuals from the community who are concerned with both protecting island wildlife habitat and ensuring proper island use by visitors. The Friends hold planning meetings at 6pm every third Wednesday of the month at refuge headquarters - 733 Old Clinton Road, Westbrook. The Friends also plan volunteer field days to help with island management. If you would like to get involved with the Friends of the Westbrook Islands, you are welcome to attend a monthly meting or to email the membership coordinator and ask to be added to the email list. You should also check out their Facebook page here.