The sinking of the M&E Henderson ship, largely forgotten by history, set in motion a series of events that had huge implications.
Outer Banks Shipwreck “M&E Henderson”
How a Largely Forgotten Event Created Opportunity for Black Americans
November 30, 1879 was a clear night on the Outer Banks, although the breeze was stiff and the surf high. Why the schooner M&E Henderson ran aground at the north point of New Inlet just three miles south of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station will never be known. But the ship did run aground. Three crewmen managed to swim ashore; the captain and three other crewmen lost their lives.
The sinking of a ship and the loss of life were tragic, but compared to so many other disasters that have occurred along the Outer Banks, it hardly seems significant. Yet the sinking of that ship, largely forgotten by history, set in motion a series of events that had huge implications.
The Lifesaving Service published an annual report detailing personnel issues, expenditures, and needs. The report also contained particularly noteworthy actions by its personnel and the wreck of the M&E Henderson made the cut in the fiscal year 1879 report.
“It appears from the evidence taken, that…patrolman (Leonidas) Tillett, who had the morning watch on the beat south, returned to the house a few minutes after five o’clock in the morning, lit a fire in the stove and called the cook, then went upstairs, and looking with the marine glass from the south window, perceived, at some distance in the clear moonlight…a man whom he at first thought was a fisherman.”
Tillett, an experienced surfman, though, noticed that the man was not wearing a hat and surmised “… that he might have been washed ashore from a wreck.”
He immediately began walking south to meet the man and “…soon came up to a haggard and dripping figure, a sailor, tottering along very much exhausted, and only able to feebly articulate, ‘captain drowned—masts gone.’”
Two other sailors, weak and almost drowned were also found, but the captain and the other three crewmen had perished.
It was a great story and spoke highly of the professionalism and skill of the Lifesaving Service personnel at the Pea Island Lifesaving Station.
However, with the exception of the three survivors of the shipwreck, almost everything that Station Keeper George Daniels wrote and was used in the year-end book was a lie.
It began to unravel fairly quickly, and it was the three survivors who started the ball rolling.
It is unclear what their nationality was for it was reported that they spoke broken English. But one thing the three of them were clear about—Surfman Tillett did not meet them on the beach and that they walked to the Lifesaving station with no help from anyone.
The General Superintendent of the nascent Lifesaving Service was determined to make the service a highly competent, professional organization. The testimony of the three men called out to be examined and he sent Lieutenant Charles Shoemaker to investigate.
Shoemaker had no problem finding inconsistencies in Daniels’ report.
November 30 was a clear night. A shipwreck creates a tremendous amount of debris, and there was no explanation about why a supposedly experienced Surfman Tillett would not have seen the debris on a clear night during his patrol.
That discovery led to another problem. Keeper Daniels had clearly lied in his report to protect Tillett, and that was unacceptable.
Shoemaker, in his report, did more than point to the duplicity of Daniels and Tillett. He found that at least one of the crew at the station, Charles Midgett, was incapable of performing the duties of a Surfman and that the crew at the station was in general poorly trained and ill-prepared to render assistance to ship in distress.
There’s more—he also found that Keeper Daniels would frequently be absent to go “fire-lighting,” or hunting waterfowl at night.
With Shoemaker’s report in hand, Kimball authorized the court-martial and firing of the entire Pea Island crew, which allowed him to follow the recommendations of Shoemaker and another inspector, Lieutenant Frank Newcomb, both of whom recommended Surfman #6, the lowest rank, at the Bodie Island Lifesaving Station for promotion to Station Keeper. Surfman #6 was Richard Etheridge, a Black man, and former slave.
Surfman #6 was the only rank African-Americans were allowed to hold at Lifesaving Stations at that time, but Kimball’s inspectors were adamant that Etheridge was the best man for the job.
Shoemaker and Newcomb wrote separate recommendations for Etheridge, with Newcomb noting, “Richard Etheridge is 38 years of age, has the reputation of being as good a surfman as there is on the coast, black or white, can read and write intelligently, and bears a good name as a man among the men with whom he has associated during his life.”
On February 1, 1880 Richard Etheridge became Keeper Richard Kimball of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station. No white man would serve with him, so the best of the Black surfmen #6 became the crew of the station.
By all accounts Etheridge was a stickler for detail, adhering to regulations and constant drilling. It all paid off on the night of October 11, 1896, the rescue of the ES Newman, still considered one of the most extraordinary rescues in Coast Guard history.
The US Lifesaving Service was the predecessor to the US Coast Guard, becoming part of the Coast Guard in 1915.
The Pea Island Lifesaving Station continued to be manned by an all-Black crew until it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1947.
A guide to understanding some of the terminology used by locals when navigating the Outer Banks. From Carolina Designs.
Outer Banks Terminology
A guide to understanding our region and assuming terminology.
Every area has its own phrasing to describe how to get around their community. First-time travelers to New York City likely won’t know references to the “Village” mean Greenwich Village. The same logic applies to San Francisco’s Nob Hill or Kensington in London. Those new to the Outer Banks will find local lingo is quite similar.
Navigating the Outer Banks is simple; everything is either north or south. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east and extensive bays, estuaries, and sounds are to the west. Even at its widest point, the Outer Banks is barely two miles across.
Nonetheless, when asking directions and a resident casually replies, “Oh, yeah, that’s in Colington,” your confusion will likely continue. We hope this north to south guide helps you understand the area more.
Everything located north of the town of Duck and between the Dare and Currituck County line is considered Corolla . . . until you reach the four-wheel drive area.
However, Corolla Village is a small grouping of homes and businesses located around the base of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. The structures lining the street are actually buildings from the original village, some of them dating back 125-150 years.
NC 12 ends about two miles north of Corolla Village. Although the paved road no longer exists, drivers with 4WD vehicles can proceed up the beach. The area north of the paved road is usually referred to by locals as Carova. However, properly speaking, Carova is the small village just south of the Carolina and Virginia border.
The Town of Duck has quite a number of subdivisions which are rarely referenced when providing directions. Yet visitors may hear locals refer to Duck Village, which is not a subdivision. When you hear this term, they are referencing the business district of Duck, an area that is roughly the same length as the Duck Boardwalk.
Kitty Hawk Village
Kitty Hawk is one of the oldest settled areas in Dare County. When the Wright Brothers came to the Outer Banks, they stayed with William Tate in what was then a village. The home is now gone, although there is a marker on Moor Shore Road indicating where the house once stood.
As a settled area, Kitty Hawk was never much more than a village, and that original area is typically referred to as Kitty Hawk Village or the Village. As a geographic reference, it is the area surrounding Kitty Hawk Bay from Moor Shore Road to Austin Cemetery.
Just past Austin Cemetery is a residential area called Kitty Hawk Landing. As a residential area, it’s something residents use in talking to one another, but just in case it comes up in conversation there is a reference for its location.
Kitty Hawk is where directions start to be given in mile markers, for example, “The Kitty Hawk Post Office is located at milepost 4 on the Bypass.” It’s also where people start referring to locations as between the highways or beachfront. The only two highways on the Outer Banks are US 158 (Carotoke Highway or the Bypass) and NC 12 (Virginia Dare Trail or the Beach Road). The towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head generally have two to three blocks of homes between the two roads. When you hear a local refer to a location between the highways, they mean roadways located between the Beach Road and the Bypass.
On the south side of the Wright Brothers Monument, a westbound turn onto Ocean Bay Boulevard leads back to the community of Colington. As an unincorporated part of Dare County, Colington is not actually a part of Kill Devil Hills, but since the only road to the island is through Kill Devil Hills, one would assume it is a part of the town.
Colington is its own community that consists of a smattering of stores and small restaurants. It’s also the home of Billy’s Seafood that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives when Guy Fieri brought his show to the Outer Banks.
The island is one of the oldest settled areas on the Outer Banks. In 1663, the Lord’s Proprietors of the Carolinas granted this area to Sir John Colleton, a British noble. Although there is no record that Colleton visited his New World holdings, his name lives on in Colington Island. The established plantation was an abysmal failure that ceased operations by the 1670s.
First Flight Village
Located just to the north of the Wright Brothers Monument, First Flight Village is a community that is completely residential. Its boundaries are somewhat ill-defined, but West 1st Street is the heart of this community.
For those lucky enough to be on the Outer Banks during Halloween, the homes on West 1st going south to Canal Drive put on the most amazing Halloween display imaginable. This celebratory event is one worth experiencing at least once.
As early as the 1830s Nags Head tourism had found a foothold in the town of Nags Head. There is a historic district along the Beach Road, although it is rarely used as a reference point. More likely, locals will refer to either Jockey’s Ridge, which is visually unmistakable, or Whalebone Junction.
Whalebone Junction is the intersection of US 158 (the Bypass) and US 64. It is either the beginning or the end for the routes, depending on how this point is viewed in your travels.
Village at Nags Head
Bordering Jockey’s Ridge to the south, the Village at Nags Head is a large subdivision that is often used as a reference point for directions, typically when providing directions to residential areas that are on the west side of the Bypass.
The wild horses that freely roam the beaches of Corolla are certainly a sight to see while visiting the Outer Banks. From your friends at Carolina Designs.
Wild Horses Of The Outer Banks
Five (almost) unknown facts about the Corolla Wild Horses
Standing in silhouette against the horizon or playing in the surf on a hot day, the Colonial Spanish Mustangs that roam the Carova area have sparked the imaginations of thousands of visitors to the Outer Banks.
Because they are not native to North America, they are considered feral animals by wildlife biologists—but they have been a part of the Outer Banks environment for so long, that referring to them as wild horses is not unreasonable.
We have observed and learned some things about them over the years, so here are five perhaps not well-known facts about them.
Outer Banks Wild Horses
No one really knows how they got here
It is, perhaps, romantic to think the horses escaped from sinking ships and swam ashore. Romantic, but highly doubtful. The state-of-the-art method for transporting horses in the 16th century had them suspended from slings below deck to protect their legs from the rolling motion of a ship at sea. It’s hard to imagine a sailor taking the time to free a horse as a ship is foundering.
More likely, the horses were left behind when the Spanish abandoned failed colonies from Florida to South Carolina. It is also possible the horses came ashore with exploration parties and were abandoned when the explorers returned to their ships.
At one time the herd was 5000-6000
According to a 1926 National Geographic article by Melville Charter, the Outer Banks herd of wild horses numbered between 5000-6000 head at that time.
The number may seem high, but it may be accurate. The horses were a valuable resource to Outer Banks farmers who allowed them to range freely over their land, rounding them up to be sold to mainland buyers once or twice a year, so horse populations, in general, were protected.
A number of factors came together to create a precipitous decline in the population.
In the 1930s the state legislature mandated that horses had to be kept in enclosures, and farmers did not have the money during the depression to build horse pens.
Perhaps most devastating was the National Park Service’s decision when Cape Hatteras National Seashore was created that the horses were a nuisance species — they put a bounty on them.
The horses were used for coastal patrols
During WWII the US Coast Guard had a robust presence on the Outer Banks and the native horses they found were ideal for helping to patrol the shoreline.
Even before the Coast Guard started using the horses, their predecessor, the Lifesaving Service, regularly used Banker Horses for patrolling and hauling equipment to rescue sites.
The Shackleford Banks Wild Horses are kissin’ cousins
Genetic testing has confirmed there is a direct genetic link to the Spanish Mustangs of history and the Corolla Wild Horses. However, because of their isolation, the Corolla herd has become differentiated from the mainstream Mustangs of the American plains.
There is speculation, because of their isolation over time, that the Outer Banks herd is the closest to the original breed of the horse. The closest genetic breed to the Outer Banks herd is the Shackleford Banks Wild horses—so close that when the Outer Banks herd wanted to add a stallion to aid genetic diversity, Gus, a young Shackelford stallion was imported.
Gus is somewhat shy and unaggressive, although at last report he had paired up with one or two mares.
The herd changes location by season
The iconic image of the Corolla Wild Horse is a harem—one stallion and four or five mares—hanging out on the beach on a hot day. And in the summer, on the beach or bathing in the canals is a likely place to find them.
The herd, however, is not static, and in the winter it almost disappears from sight. The people who seem to know the Corolla Wild Horses best speculate that they head back to the woods and marsh along the sound, probably taking advantage of the trees to protect them from the wind and salt spray of the season.
The herd census is done in the fall because of the fact that the horses are so hard to find in the winter.
How the Outer Banks came to be what it is today and some pretty incredible history of what it once was. From Carolina Designs.
Outer Banks Fun Facts
How the Outer Banks came to be what it is today and some pretty incredible history of what it once was.
The Outer Banks is a giant sandbar and remarkably young geographically
Young is of course a relative term, but when talking about land formations 4,000-5,000 years old is barely an infant. But that, according to scientists, is about when the Outer Banks rose from the Atlantic Ocean and became a recognizable land mass. As all barrier islands do, the Outer Banks is migrating toward the continental mainland. The ocean washes over the barrier island, picking up sand on the eastern side and depositing it to the west. That has been going on for around 5000 years.
Inlets are formed by water pushing out from the sound
They’re called inlets, but actually they are outlets. Inlets form when the force of the water in the sound pushes through the shoreline to the ocean. It is almost unheard of for the ocean to breach the shoreline and form a navigable opening. Overwash, yes, but certainly not semi-permanent or navigable.
The line of sand dunes on the beach are manmade
During the Great Depression, the Federal Government created a work program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Its sole purpose was to put young unemployed and unmarried men to work. The primary work of the Corps was conservation of the natural environment. For example, the CCC built many of the hiking trails still in use in national parks. One of their tasks was to create a dune line running the entire length of the Outer Banks–which was probably the first attempt to stabilize the beach. It has been helpful in preventing some flooding and overwash, but there is little evidence that it has slowed the retreat of the shoreline.
We are home to the oldest cultivated grapevine in the New World
The Mother Vine on Mother Vineyard Road on Roanoke Island is a massive grape vine covering about a quarter acre. The grape growing on it is a Scuppernong, one of over 200 kinds of Muscadine grape. When the Lost Colony was first established, records were sent back to England that detailed the location of a grape vine at the same location of the Mother Vine. Sales of the property and transfer forms specifically describe the vine as early as the mid-18th century. It remains unclear whether the English Colonists or native Croatan Indians planted the vine.
Blackbeard did not kill his prisoners
With lit fuses set in his scraggly beard, multiple pistols jammed into his belt and vest, and an imposing size (supposedly 6’2”), Blackbeard must have looked like the Devil incarnate. But if anyone died in his presence, they would have died from fear, not at the hands of Edward Teach. There is no recorded instance of Blackbeard harming his victims–and that is consistent with how 18th century pirates operated. Pirates were interested in the ship and its contents. If the crew on the attacked vessel thought they were going to die, they would fight much harder, which may have resulted in the ship being damaged or sinking.
The Outer Banks, more specifically Nags Head, was one of the first tourist destinations in the U.S.
The Hudson Valley of New York is often given credit as the birthplace of American tourism, as a growing middle class ventured out of the urban centers of the Northeast. However, the South, before the Civil War, didn’t have much of a middle class, but the wealthy plantation owners had their own reasons for finding places to visit during the summer. Back in the 1820s, a Perquimans County plantation owner, Francis Nixon, hoping to escape the rampant yellow fever of summer in the coastal plain, loaded his family onto a sailboat, sailed across the sound until he came to a dock at the base of Jockey’s Ridge. Other plantation owners soon followed and within 20 years there was a thriving tourist-based economy centered on Nags Head. Almost everything was centered on the sound side, where a dock and hotel were located. There was a boardwalk from the hotel to the ocean. Steamships made regular stops at the dock. The Civil War put a temporary halt on tourism, but after the war, it resumed full force. The hotel, which was located on the south side of Jockey’s Ridge eventually succumbed to the inexorable force of migrating sand. However, by that time, the late 19th century, Nags Head was well-established as a tourist destination with beach homes being built by the rich and powerful of northeastern North Carolina.
The Whalehead Club, located in Corolla, began life as a private residence
The story goes that when Marie-Louise LeBel Knight was refused entry at an all-boys hunting club—supposedly the Lighthouse Club, she and her husband, Edward, decided to create their own hunting enclave. Construction began in 1923 and it took three years to finish it, but when completed, there was nothing remotely like it on the Outer Banks. When all was said and done, the home cost $383,000, around $5.5 million today. The original name was Corolla Island and it was the private residence of the Knights, who visited every winter. Edward and Marie-Louise died within a few months of each other in 1936. That was during the height of the depression and buyers were hard to come by. Finally, in 1940, Ray Adams, a Washington, DC meat packer with political connections, purchased the property for $25,000 and renamed it the Whalehead Club.
The Whalehead Club was once a missile test site
After the Corolla Academy, a summer boarding school for boys, moved out in 1962, Atlantic Research Corporation moved into the Whalehead Club. The company had been working on liquid propelled rockets for some time. Their design was one of the first used in the Minuteman rocket, and they needed a remote site for their experiments. In 1969 the company moved out, probably looking for an even more remote location. Atlantic Research continues to develop liquid fuel rockets today.
The Outer Banks used to be a bombing range for the Navy
This is a case of “yes it was” and “OMG it almost was.” During WWII, the Navy needed a site to practice bombing close to their Norfolk base but remote enough that no one would be hurt. What better location than a strip of sand 50 or 60 miles to the south between Corolla and Kitty Hawk…right where the Duck Field Research Facility (Duck Pier) is today. Yes, they did drop bombs and yes, there is a reason why there are warning signs along the road warning of live munitions at the site. That makes a certain amount of sense, but Project Nutmeg seems to defy logic. It seems military brass after WWII, concerned about the expense and complexity of relocating an entire population from a Pacific tropical atoll for atomic testing—that would be Bikini Island—were looking for a more cost-effective solution. What better place than Ocracoke Island, which according to a meteorologist looking into the feasibility of testing nuclear weapons along the coast, the island was “practically uninhabited.” Which would have been a shock to the 500 or so residents of the time. The theory was that prevailing summer winds would take any radiation safely out to sea. For many reasons the plan was never implemented.
The Marc Basnight Bridge is teh highest-level navigation span in North America
Driving across the bridge over Oregon Inlet, there is a feeling as though you’re perched on top of the world—and in a way that is the case. Here is NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon’s description for the bridge from the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It is 3550’ long, the highest-level navigation span, and the third longest segmental box girder in North America,” he said. The segmental box girder construction he is talking about is a relatively new form of bridge construction—the last 50 years. It creates a much lighter but stronger girder than traditional bridge construction. The technique was not available when the Bonner Bridge was built in 1963.
The Outer Banks is one of the first permanently settled areas by the English
This has nothing to do with the Lost Colony, which does not qualify as a permanent settlement. In this case, we’re talking about the northern Currituck Banks, the area around Carova to Knotts Island. Precise records are difficult to come by, but there is no doubt that by the 1650s, settlers drifted down from the Jamestown settlement and found new homes just south of what is now the North Carolina/Virginia Border. That predates the founding of Philadelphia (1682), Charleston (1670), and Baltimore (1729) by quite a number of years.
Manteo was originally a planned town
Manteo as a recognizable town didn’t come into existence until after the Civil War. However, in 1715 there was an attempt by the NC colonial legislature to create a planned community on Shallowbag Bay. Meticulously laid out on 300 acres, the law that created the community included specific placement for a town square, church, municipal offices and lot sizes of homes. Because Roanoke Inlet was still open at that time, Provincial officials were hoping to create a port of entry. The name of the town was to be Carteret Town, after one of the Lords Proprietors who owned North Carolina. The plan failed for a number of reasons, but considerable blame can be placed at the feet of Richard Sanderson Jr. of Perquimans County. One of the wealthiest and most influential men of his day, Sanderson seems to have sold 1500 acres of land on Roanoke Island that he did not have title to.
Kitty Hawk was a logging center
Maritime forests that are so prevalent along the soundside shores of the Outer Banks produce wood that is ideal for commercial use. From the late 19th century until 1930, the village of Kitty Hawk was an important logging center in eastern North Carolina. Initially juniper and live oak were harvested, but over logging depleted the inventory. After the large trees gave out, workers began harvesting dogwood. Dogwood was the ideal wood for the bobbins that drove the North Carolina fabric industry.
A house in Rodanthe was the set for a movie based on a book written by Nicholas Sparks
The book by Nicholas Sparks is certainly a fictional depiction of our area that’s woven into a romantic tale, but what’s certain is that house featured in this movie does exist. It has a treacherous history, because years of coastal storm systems and erosion almost washed it out to sea from its oceanfront location on the north end of Rodanthe. The beach on the north end of Rodanthe may be one of the most dynamic on the Outer Banks, and when the movie was filmed in 2008, this house was already on the edge of the sea. By 2010, the house was uninhabitable and had to be moved further inland. It’s likely the movie’s notoriety saved this home, and it’s nice to know this unique structure lives on in Rodanthe.
Tourism isn’t the only economic contribtor to the Outer Banks
It’s a known fact that tourism is the economic engine that powers the Outer Banks, but it is not the only engine. From workshops in Manteo and Wanchese to boatyards in Manns Harbor, the recreational boat industry is thriving. The decision by the Dare County Commissioners to increase the sales tax by a quarter cent (that’s 25 cents on $100) to help pay for dredging Oregon Inlet, was driven by two concerns—the need to get recreational and commercial fishermen through the channel, and the economic impact to boat builders if they couldn’t get their product out to sea.
Make your trip to the Outer Banks beach hassle-free by checking these handy guide. Preparation is key towards a great holiday on the OBX.
Top 10 Beach Tips
The only guide you will ever need before you hit the Outer Banks beach.
We often talk about the award-winning beaches of the Outer Banks, how they differ from Corolla to Nags Head, and why some may be better for families and others great for a remote and private experience. But in all we’ve shared, we’ve yet to describe how to take that great beach experience to the next level.
1. Sunscreen … and lots of it – Chances are the last time your body was exposed to this much direct sunlight was when you were on vacation last year. Lobster red is only attractive on boiled lobster and you’ll enjoy your stay here much better sans sunburn.
2. Save alcohol for the evening – We know this goes against the grain for many vacationers who dream of arriving on the beach, kicking back in a lounge chair and popping a cold one, but here are a couple of reasons why one should rethink this plan.
First of all, alcohol on the beach is illegal in many Outer Banks jurisdictions. Secondly, alcohol is a diuretic-meaning it flushes liquids out of your system faster than you’re taking them in. Each year dehydration sends many vacationers to our medical facilities, so …
3. Hydrate – Or in less scientific terms, drink plenty of water or sports drinks, preferably without caffeine since caffeine is also a diuretic (see Item 2).
4. Locate lifeguard stands – Fortunately, it’s rare to require lifeguard rescue, but just in case someone in your party or from a neighboring group needs assistance, it’s a good idea to know where to go. Our lifeguards are professionals in the truest sense of the word. They are great swimmers and well trained to keep beach-goers safe.
5. Read a novel – There may be nothing more enjoyable then immersing oneself in a good book to the lulling background sounds of waves lapping the shoreline. Whether you appreciate rousing history, whimsical fantasy or touching romance novels, this is an experience not to be missed during your vacation.
6. Ditch cell phones and tablets – This is your vacation so reconnect with your family and with nature. Any pressing issues at work can be handled by your well trained team. By all means, check it twice a day in case of an emergency, but otherwise embrace the real reason you are here … to refresh, reconnect and revitalize.
7. Fly a kite – There’s a reason the Wright Brothers came to the Outer Banks to attempt their first flight, and it’s the same reason kite flying is an Outer Banks pastime for enthusiasts. Typically early mornings or evenings, when beaches are less crowded, are the prime flying times and good wind conditions are the key. If the wind is from the west, it’s going to be challenging to get a kite into the air. On the Outer Banks, summer breezes are generally from the south or southwest. As a general rule, winds from the south create better flying conditions.
8. Take your dog to the beach – It’s amazing how many families plan their vacation travel to include their dogs. We currently offer over 100 pet friendly accommodations and can provide guests with town regulations and leash laws, which vary. Some general rules to abide by when exploring the beach with Fido – always clean up after your pet, make sure to bring fresh water and don’t allow them to drink salty ocean water.
9. Pack a picnic lunch – When was the last time you and your family had a picnic? Remember how exciting it was when you were a kid and your parents would reach in the cooler and pull out sandwiches and goodies? Things really haven’t changed that much for today’s kids. The beach is the perfect canvas to spread a blanket and exchange stories over a tasty meal. After all vacations are all about creating lasting family memories.
10. Jump in the ocean with your kids – Laugh. Giggle. Celebrate life. You’re on vacation, spending time with the people you love. Life truly doesn’t get better than this!
Apart from its natural beauty, the Outer Banks is a mecca for those who love fishing. Here are some tips and guidelines when fishing on the OBX.
Spring and Summer Fishing on the Outer Banks
A perfect destination for anyone who love fishing.
The Outer Banks is a 200-mile-long string of what are called “barrier islands.” Lying off the coast of North Carolina and a very small portion of Virginia, the Outer Banks offer stunning natural beauty, a temperate climate, and some of the best fishing opportunities in the country. After a long winter spent with fishing gear put away, many avid sport fishing fans are all too eager to once again take up the challenge of landing fish of all types, and they often head to the Outer Banks to do so. Spring and summer fishing in the Outer Banks appeals to fisherman from all over the country, and for good reason.
Ease of Travel to the Outer Banks
There are many reasons why the Outer Banks is a great fishing destination in the spring and summer months. It’s easy to get to the Outer Banks by car from most any location in the U.S. and Canada. Interstate highways connect to well-maintained state roads and highways in North Carolina and travel by car to OBX, as the Outer Banks are commonly known, is scenic.
Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia, lies only 82 miles to the north, with easy travel by car directly from the airport. Raleigh Durham International Airport in North Carolina is about 192 miles west of the Outer Banks, and the drive is both easy and scenic. There are also air charters available that fly directly into airfields in and around the OBX.
Ground transportation in the Outer Banks includes car rentals, limos, shuttles, and tour buses. Ferry service between the mainland of North Carolina and OBX and its islands is also a fixture. It’s very easy for sport fishing enthusiasts to focus on fishing and not on getting from island to island, or fishing area to fishing area, and this is a definite bonus when you’re interested in maintaining your focus.
Fishing the Outer Banks
There are many ways to fish the Outer Banks, including offshore in larger watercraft, off a pier, inshore, or near-shore in small boats and in the surf areas. Offshore fishing in the Outer Banks typically means a two-hour or so boat ride to the waters of the Gulf Stream, and spring and early summer months provide not only warm temperatures but also calmer waters.
Scheduled offshore fishing excursions in the Outer Banks usually depart no later than 6 AM so that fishing areas are reached by 8 AM to allow for a full day of quality fishing. Different species of deepwater fish make their way through the Outer Banks in the spring and summer, such as yellowfin tuna in the spring and various size fish and dolphin in the late spring and early summer months.
Many anglers heading to the Outer Banks prefer inshore and near-shore fishing rather than deepwater fishing. In boats, trolling fishing may net Outer Banks anglers a range of species such as Spanish and king mackerel. Other fishing fans prefer plying their sport on various piers dotting the Outer Banks in the spring and summer months, and bait and tackle shops are conveniently located near many OBX piers.
Outer Banks Surf Fishing
Successful fishing in the surf along the Outer Banks can be an exciting experience where technique, understanding of local currents, and determination make it an enjoyable spring and summer pastime. Some beach fishing area in the Outer Banks have their own opening and closing schedule, and on Hatteras Island U.S. National Park Service rules dictate which beach surf areas are open to off-road vehicles.
The NPS also has other requirements and rules Outer Banks surf fishing fans must follow, and it’s a good idea to learn them prior to showing up and trying to cast tackle rigs into the water. Outer Banks surf fish species include speckled trout, croaker, bluefish, and sea mullet.
Outer Banks Tourist Traffic
The Outer Banks area is a natural tourist destination. As spring melts into summer in OBX, greater numbers of visitors begin pouring in and fishing charter businesses may book up, making it important to reserve early. Popular surf and inshore fishing areas in the Outer Banks may also become more populous in the summer than in the spring, and air temperatures can also sometimes become balmy when offshore breezes subside.
The Outer Banks is every runner’s dream. Take up a challenging path up the dunes or just run along the beach and enjoy the scenery. The choice is yours.
Running the Outer Banks
Running on the Outer Banks can be challenging, scenic, and historical.
Located off the northeast coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks (or OBX) features a scenic expanse of coastal beauty and has become a haven for runners and host to numerous annual racing events. The 120 miles of barrier islands provides a variety of diverse running terrain ranging from sand and dirt paths to pavement with long stretches of flat land interspersed with rolling hills. Simply spoken, there is something for Outer Banks runners of all skill sets, so the most difficult part of running the Outer Banks is deciding where to run.
Running the Beaches
The sand will always be the star of the show on the Outer Banks, and this is no different for running. The long stretch of shoreline creates a natural trail from which any runner can carve his or her own tracks. Beach runs can be enjoyed solo or runners can join in group runs. Since the beaches tend to form a pathway, no formal trails are specified for beach runners. In some areas, such as Cape Hatteras, trails do exist and may deviate from the shoreline, weaving into the coastal forests and then returning to the beach. This allows runners to enjoy the diverse landscape of the Outer Banks.
It’s difficult to narrow down the list of possible beach runs. For a run that is both scenic and historical, consider Cape Hatteras National Seashore, recently named by National Geographic as one of the “10 Best Trail Runs in America.” This run will take you past the infamous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which stands at 198 feet making it the tallest lighthouse in the nation.
Running the Multi-Use Paths
Each town on the Outer Banks offers multi-use paths. Currently there are over 50 miles of interconnected multi-use paths in Dare County alone. The paths in Duck, NC are some of the most popular for runners because they are easily accessible, the adjacent traffic is slow and they wind through the charming village center. Further north, the Corolla area offers a variety of multi-use paths, and the town has plans to expand the paths each year until they all connect. To the south, the town of Southern Shores has a wide multi-use path that runs the entire length of the main road, NC12.
Running in Maritime Forests
Beyond the beaches, the Outer Banks is also home to distinctive maritime forests. To explore this option, visit Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, a 1,000+ acre maritime forest preserve. On these dirt paths, runners can connect with nature just miles from the beach. Duck Town Park, located in the heart of Duck, features shorter trails that meander through 11 acres of maritime forest. Another popular running spot is the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve located in the town of Kitty Hawk.
Running the Dunes
Up for a challenge? Jockey’s Ridge State Park near Nags Head is home to some of tallest natural sand dunes found on the East Coast. Those who run these rolling hills of sand will find the experience both fulfilling and challenging. For a slightly less daunting dune run, visit the dunes of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll share the trails with a variety of wildlife. The terrain and landscape here is more diverse and includes beach, dunes and forest.
If your passion is racing, the Outer Banks is host to a variety of exciting race events. Detailed information can be found by visiting www.outerbanks.org or www.outerbankssportingevents.com.
The Outer Banks is every cyclist’s dream due to its well-marked trails & multi-use paths. There are three well-known trails, one of which is Nags Head Woods.
Outer Banks Mountain Bike Trails
The ideal location for a great cycling adventure.
Gently rolling hills . . . yes, there are some on the Outer Banks. Combined with shady multi-use paths and well-marked trails, it all comes together to make the Outer Banks a cyclist’s dream.
It is possible to ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla to Bodie Island Light in Nags Head. This is a car distance of 36 miles. You’ll only be on the main road for about five or six miles, and there’s a wide shoulder along the highway.
There are more than 50 miles of interconnected bike paths in Dare County and they make for a great morning or afternoon excursion with family or friends. There are a few trails that leave the pavement for dirt roads and cycling trails, so I think it’s interesting to discuss these paths.
The Pine Island Audubon Trail
At one time, the journey to Corolla included a dirt road and beach driving. The road began at the Dare/Currituck County line and was marked by a guardhouse which marked the boundary of the land that was owned by the Pine Island Hunt Club, one of the oldest and most storied of the Cuttiuck clubs. The land was ceded to the Audubon Society a number of years ago, and what was the dirt road is now a wide, easily navigated path that parallels the sound.
There is a small parking lot on the north end of the Sanderling, which is at the south end of the trail. The trail ends at the Pine Island Racquet Club. Live oaks line the east side of the trail, the sound is ever present to the west, and there are two observation platforms that are worth a visit. The trail should be navigable by any fat tired bike, but I don’t recommend taking a skinny tired bike on it. Ride fast or apply insect repellant in the summer and early fall!
Kitty Hawk Woods
Kitty Hawk Woods is about 1900 acres of one of the most beautiful maritime forest imaginable. Although there is a paved multi-use path that runs through it, for a more challenging and unique ride, get off the pavement and onto the dirt trail.
The trailhead is at the end of Ridge Road in Kitty Hawk. A nice warm-up is to start at the intersection of the Woods Road and NC 158–the second light past the Wright Memorial Bridge. The multi-use path will come to a fork–bear to the right and go to Austin Cemetery, where the paved trail ends. Turn right and right again on to Ridge Road. At the end of Ridge Road, the trail is immediately in front of you. It’s really not as confusing as it sound.
The trails through Kitty Hawk Woods are absolutely beautiful at any time of the year. A bit challenging, fat tires and gears are a necessity. The trails traverse ridge lines and descend into swales, and you may get a bit muddy during the ride. Lots of tree roots too, so expect a few bumps along the way. There are a number of interconnecting paths through the Woods—so pay attention to where you are, or it can get a little confusing.
Nags Head Woods
There’s a great dirt road located in the heart of Nags Head Woods, that’s a great cycling adventure. Really beautiful, with a mountainous feel to it, the road leads to one of the most exquisite overlooks on the Outer Banks.
It is possible to access everything from the Nags Head Woods Visitor’s Center–which has a parking lot. Located on Ocean Acres Drive, turn west at the light at Pigman’s Barbecue, and follow the road until the pavement runs out, then look to the left. A second route is to take W. Martin Street until it becomes Old Nags Head Woods Road (the official name). This second route is a bit more difficult to navigate, although it gives the rider a chance to start at the beginning of the dirt.
Riding to the west, the road ends at an extraordinary overlook of Roanoke Sound framed by a massive live oak that is inevitably going to fall into the water. The ride is suitable for a strong rider on fat tires (think beach cruiser), but it is better with gears.
A quick note–there are miles of trails running through Nags Head Woods, but because of concerns about trail damage, bikes are not permitted on them.
Go out and have fun, and we’ll take a look at paved trails soon.
What is a fulgurite and how is it formed in the Outer Banks? See how it looks like and where it can be located on the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks Fulgurite
Learn how it’s formed in the Outer Banks.
Picture this: it’s July or August and the day is hot and humid. To the west white clouds appear, then become darker as a front approaches. Thunder is the first warning of the approaching storm, followed by flashes of lightning.
As the storm passes over the beach or crosses a sand dune, bolts of lightning streak to the ground and a remarkable transformation occurs.
Superheating the air to temperatures anywhere between 8000-30,000 degrees Celsius, when the lighting strikes the sand, the silica—the main mineral the makes up sand—melts and hardens into the long, fragile shapes of fulgurite.
Although conditions on the Outer Banks are ideal for creating fulgurite—lots of unprotected sand and occasional thunderstorms, finding it is a rare thing.
Fulgurite tends to be a little darker than the sand surrounding it, although the shading difference is slight, almost as though it’s camouflaging itself. What appears on the surface is usually just a small tip—the rest buried as deeply as the bolt of lightning pierced the ground.
And it’s incredibly fragile.
Typically if fulgurite is found, attempts to free it from the ground result in breaking. But if it is preserved, what is seen is a type of fused quartz that is remarkable in its subtle beauty.
Here’s a definition of fulgurite we found from the Mineral Research Company that describes the hidden beauty of fulgurite.
“The inner surfaces and openings of the tubes are usually smooth and glassy, in some specimens resembling an applied glaze, sometimes with blister-like bubbling present.”
Because it is so fragile, and so difficult to even find, the fulgurite collections at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the Nellie Pridgen Collection at the Beachcomber’s Museum in Nags Head are remarkable.
The massive piece of fulgurite at the Outer Banks Beachcomber’s Museum in particular is worth a look. About 8” or 9” across, it is not shaped like most fulgurite. Somewhat disc shaped, the narrow tubes that are common in fulgurite are there, but not nearly as pronounced.
As large as that fulgurite is, it is not even close to being the largest ever found. That distinction belongs to a single piece of the mineral that was found in Florida. Excavated by the University of Florida in 1997 it consists of two tree root-like branches, one 17’ long, the other 16’.
That a piece of fulgurite that large could even be removed intact is remarkable.
The Outer Banks has two types of fulgurite. The sand dunes, regularly scoured by the winds, have a very fine grain of silica and that is the most likely location for a long tendril of the mineral to be found. Fulgurite that is found on the beach tends to be more irregular and will sometimes have shell material embedded in it.
Either type, though, will sometimes find its way to jewelers. With its glass-like interior it can create a truly unique piece of jewelry. Ginny Flowers, owner of Cloud Nine in Nags Head, loves its look and the potential each piece has to be something completely different. She does caution though that it is not everyday jewelry, pointing out fulgurite is very fragile.
How much fulgurite exists on the Outer Banks?
That’s hard to say. Small pieces of it are probably fairly common, but a 1945 paper on the mineral seems to indicate large finds are very rare indeed.
Writing a treatise entitled Nags Head and Fulgurite, author Jeff Hill was astonished at what he found and even more so when he took his discovery to the experts.
“I picked up a few inches of it that I found lying on the ground and took it to the University of North Carolina for identification…There I learned its identity and how very rare it is. I was told that this specimen was the first fulgurite reported found in North Carolina,” he wrote.
The discovery did not come without some discomfort, he also noted.
“Nature guards this treasure well. The price we had to pay was agony from mosquitoes, red bugs, and all too frequent con-tact with quicksand. Have I forgotten to mention sunburn?…No one who wishes to live to a ripe old age should go into the fulgurite business, at least not at Nags Head.”