Sunday, January 27, 2013

Carteret County- The Best Kept Secret on the East Coast

Carteret County, NC, highlighted in red.

           Located on what is known as North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks or Crystal Coast, Carteret County is a haven for beach-goers, boaters, and vacationers alike. Carteret County was originally founded in 1722 by Sir John Carteret, the Earl of Granville and soon to be one of the Lords Proprietors of North Carolina. Before English settlement in the early 18th Century, Carteret County was home to two tribes of Indians, the Tuscarora, who lived in the river-estuaries of the Pamlico-Neuse River system, and the Coree, who are assumed to have lived in what is now modern day Downeast. In fact, the name Core Banks is named after the Coree Indians who frequented the banks to hunt and fish. By the start of the 1700's, settlers from English, Scottish, German, and Irish decent settled in the area, beginning to plant roots in what would soon be called Carteret County. By the 19th Century, Carteret County had turned into a agricultural and fishing hot spot, producing tobacco, lumber and grain, while at the same time shipping vast amounts of fish to the northern markets of Norfolk, Philadelphia, and New York. Moving into the 20th Century, towns such as Morehead City, founded by local politician John Motley Morehead and Atlantic Beach began to take shape and form the beaches and towns we know today.
          In present day, Carteret County has about 21 small towns resulting in a population of nearly 67,000 people, the three largest towns being Morehead City, Beaufort, and Emerald Isle. What drives the economies of nearly all 21 county towns now is a simple question to answer: tourism. Tourism is what runs the engine of Carteret County these days. In fact, tourism brought the county nearly 300 million dollars in 2011, a remarkable figure for such a small county. So, the question that begs to be asked next is, what are all of these people coming to see in Carteret County? The answer this time is a bit more complex. First and foremost, the beaches. The beach towns of Emerald Isle, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, right on up through the protected beaches of Fort Macon and Cape Lookout offer a pristinity (not a word, but should be) found little place else on the East coast. The "Crystal Coast", also known as Bogue Banks, offers a return to small beach towns of the past, while still providing the amenities desired by the 21st century tourist. Aside from the unspoiled beaches, Carteret County offers an abundance of history, ranging from the Civil War fort, Fort Macon, located at the east end of Bogue Banks, to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, which provides a gateway to the maritime history which has engulfed Carteret County since its founding.
         What many people seem to forget is the fact that Carteret County is much more than just the beaches of the Crystal Coast and the quaint towns of Beaufort and Morehead City. In fact, Carteret County has over 1300 square miles of land (over 60% of which is water) filled with rivers, creeks and small towns which provide the perfect setting for a quiet vacation full of the outdoors. The north portion of the county, along the shores of Pamlico Sound provide excellent boating, fishing, and camping, as does the eastern portion of the county, along the shores of small towns such as Davis, Atlantic, Sea Level, and Stacy. In visiting Carteret County, the vacationer feels much like the early settlers did, as there is still much to explore, wilderness that has yet to be touched by the developing hand of mankind.  In the section below, you will find things to do and explore, as well as a climatic overview of Carteret County.

Things to do-
1. Enjoy the unspoiled beaches of Cape Lookout
2. Learn the history of Carteret County by visiting the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, the Core Sound Waterfowl museum in Harkers Island, and Fort Macon State Park on the eastern end of the Bogue Banks
3. Explore the rivers, creeks, and sounds of the county via kayak or skiff
4. Dine on some of the best seafood around (I especially recommend The Sanitary in Morehead City)
5. Stroll the historic streets of Beaufort, North Carolina's third oldest town.
and much much more!

The climate of Carteret County is like much of the south, which typically experiences cool winters, warm springs, hot and (very) humid summers, and beautiful falls. During the winter months, you will typically find temperatures in the 40's, 50's and 60's with high temperatures in the 30's being extremely rare. Precipitation is uniformly spread out in this season. Spring brings the return of mild to warm temperatures with highs ranging from 65 in March near 80-85 towards the middle to end of May with precipitation once again fairly well dispersed throughout the season. Summer brings the most uniformity to Carteret County, with daytime temperatures typically in the mid to upper 80's with lows ranging from 75-80 degrees, making for nights that are quite humid. Precipitation is a bit more abundant, however prolonged droughts are not uncommon. Falls are noted by the drop in humidity with temperatures still in the 70's until the beginning of November with precipitation being at its minimum. Of course, with both summer and fall, there is a threat for a tropical storm or hurricane. On average, North Carolina is struck about once every 2 to 3 years. The average water temperature are: Winter- upper 40's to mid 50's. Spring- upper 50's to upper 60's. Summer- upper 70's to low/mid 80's. Fall- mid 70's to mid 60's.  For a graphical view to the temperatures check out


Carteret County Links:

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Times They Are a 'Changing

      As I read further into Anthony Bailey's "The Outer Banks", the twenty-first book to my Outer Banks collection, a very important theme has become omnipresent. It is a theme closely related to the topic of the last blog, which discussed an overall loss of banks culture and identity, one which engulfed the Outer Banks of North Carolina up until the late 20th century, coinciding with the rise of the desire for modernity via hotels, motels, shopping centers and housing developments. The theme uncovered or more so reaffirmed by Bailey is that the the Outer Banks, in terms of culture and economics has been lost, mainly to the modernized world which literally surrounds the Outer Banks.
      Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and continuing right on through the 21st, the Outer Banks have seen two distinctively different economies, leaving many to adapt or be left behind. Consider for example, a banker born and raised on Ocracoke during the 40s or 50s. This banker most likely grew up fishing and working various odd jobs throughout the course of a year to make ends meet. This same banker, now in his late 50s or 60s, needs to adapt to a totally different, tourist (or dingbatter) based economy, or else be left in the dust. An interesting topic broached by Bailey in his book is one that concerns the local-tourist relationship. Bailey notes that although there is often much disdain towards a dingbatter, the deciding line is drawn "between those who want to keep up with the times and make money and those who want to keep things the way they were" (Bailey pg. 223). This dynamic presents an interesting dilemma for those locals who are understandably dedicated to preserving the past, but simultaneously need to earn a living, and since fishing and fishing related industry has been on a general downward slope for a number of decades, other methods (i.e. hotels, motels, charter fishing, etc.) must be utilized to earn an income. An Ocracoker interviewed by Bailey, by the name of Dr. Sessons also interestingly points out that though many locals want to stay and preserve their heritage, "It is ironic that it seems to be largely tourism that create jobs which allow younger islanders to stay on their own island" (Bailey pg. 226).
       Although not a local, yet someone who holds the banks very close to their heart, I believe it is absolutely crucial that the unique and truly remarkable history of the Outer Banks be preserved before ensuring that the 21st century accommodations are met for the traveler. If one is coming to the Outer Banks in the first place, they are most likely doing so to escape the crowds of people elsewhere, and to return to a state of solitude and semi-isolation, a combination which can be found very few places in the United States. However, as the title of this post suggests, the times are changing, and if the Outer Banks is to survive economically in its current state as a tourist mecca, tourists accommodations must be made. Perhaps in order to cope with over development yet still meeting the needs for tourists, the banks should embrace the natural resources that surround them, focusing more on eco-tours, rustic cabins like those of Cape Lookout and small scale development rather than the high rise hotels popping up along the Outer Banks. In any case, the Outer Banks has shifted from an economy run by the sea to one run by tourists from afar, and if this is to be the way for years to come, action must be taken to ensure that the attractiveness of the now does not compromise the beauty of the past.


Nags head circa 1920, still very much a rural beach community.
Nags Head in the 21st century, showing the high-scale development.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

God's Country

Locals and natives alike have constantly referred to the Outer Banks of North Carolina as "God's Country". From the "promised land" which the old residents on Shackleford Banks saw as their Eden, all the way up to Currituck at the North Carolina/Virgina Border, many a person has made the remark that the Outer Banks truly is God's Country. Now, this post will in no way dive into the religious aspects of "God's Country", but rather examine the natural or inherent reasons people call it so, and whether we as a society are maintaining  the heavenly status quo of "God's Country" on the Outer Banks.
          Since Sir Walter Raleigh and his party of explorers and colonists made their journey to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the late 16th century, human settlement on the banks has been almost constant, although being quite sparse during some eras. Nonetheless, habitation of the banks began with the ancient Indians, the two main tribes on the banks being the Coree (for which Core Banks gets its name) and the Croatoan Tribe who occupied what was called Hatorask Banks at the time of the first attempt at English colonization in the summer of 1584 (guess which town/cape/national seashore gets its name from them). The next major group of people to occupy the banks were simply called pilots, and would guide ships through the constantly shifting shoals that tormented many mariners trying to pass through the inlets of the Outer Banks. As well as pilots, this group of people also fished when the fishing was good, hunted waterfowl (as many species of waterfowl call the banks home during the winter months), raised livestock such as goats, chickens, cows, and even the American Buffalo, as well as kept a garden. The way of life on the Outer Banks at this time, 1696 through ~1840 was pure sustenance (Stick, 1958), and though life was certainly tough and full of challenges, the hardy, weathered bankers welcomed them with open arms, solely for their love of the place they got to call home. It appears as though modern life began to sweep through the banks with the completion of the first summer resort, The Nags Head Hotel (circa 1849) , but more importantly with the creation of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, which by 1874 included seven stations up and down the banks. The original locations were: Jones's Hill (now Corolla), Caffrey's Inlet (just north of Duck), Kitty Hawk Beach, Nag's Head, Bodie Island, Chicamicomico (now Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo) and Little Kinakeet, now known as Avon (Stick, 1958).
            "Ushering in the Modern Era", as chronicler of the Outer Banks David Stick put it in his work "The Outer Banks of North Carolina 1584-1958", has led to in my opinion, a decline in the Outer Banks' pristine landscapes and endless beaches of solitude. I believe it is safe to say that the isolation and wilderness of the banks has diminished, except for small regions of Cape Lookout National Seashore, where development has been and will forever be, prohibited. Please to do not misinterpret what I am saying, the Outer Banks is a far, very distant cry from the crowded, dirty, and unhealthy beaches of New Jersey and overpopulated regions of Florida, however if we are not careful in the way we develop, the Outer Banks would be one step closer to meeting the fate of the Jersey Shore. We have reached a very interesting point in Outer Banks history as we move further into the 21st century. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock each year to the banks, trying to find a slice of solitude, distant from the beaches of the North they have grown weary of. However, this solitude is becoming increasingly hard to find. Uncontrolled development coupled with naive and irresponsible building practices have transformed the Outer Banks from a place of solitude and isolation, to one where shopping centers and developments abound.
             The interest of the era lies in the fact that there is still time (albeit not much), to change our ways and practice smart, coherent, sensible development along the banks. It seems all to common that people forget that the Outer Banks is just a "ribbon of sand", one which is constantly migrating and subject to the forces of wind, water, and now, mankind. If out of control development continues for the next decade or so, we will surely be on our way to destroying what we have left of God's Country. Instead of urban sprawl and rapid development, perhaps we should follow a set of guidelines before developing a section of the banks. First, we should determine whether the specific section of beachfront/soundfront is stable, as some areas on the banks are eroding at rates of up to 9 feet per year. Second, we should consider the environmental/natural importance of the area, as many of our soundfront regions are home to nutrient producing marshes which develop and nurture the fish populations of the sounds. Lastly, if development does ensue, we should be careful to remain within the natural limits of the banks. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in my opinion, one of the few unspoiled places left in the United States. Uncontrolled development and population booms are slowly but surely turning the banks into the last thing the original bankers wanted. The Corees, Croatoan's, pilots and fisherman of years past truly appreciated the beauty the beheld everyday and respected the land from which they drew their living. Perhaps we should look to the ideals of the past to solve the problems of the future.

"The possibilities for adaptive coastal management are limited only by our imaginations"- Dr. Stanley Riggs, Ph.D


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dredging- A Temporary (not to mention expensive) Solution to a Permanent Problem

Citing "Hurricane Sandy, two back-to-back nor’easters and several winter wind storms" the North Carolina Department of Transportation has once again suspended ferry service and opted to dredge the "uncooperative" Hatteras Inlet channel. Before I digress, let me take you back to the year 1828. The location, some 15 odd miles south of the current topic of Hatteras Inlet. Nearly 185 years ago, the United States Congress allotted 20,000 dollars in an effort to dredge and maintain the vitality of Ocracoke Inlet (Alexander and Lazell, 1992) the hub of 19th century North Carolina maritime activity as neither Oregon nor Hatteras Inlets had been opened and New Currituck Inlet had just closed (Stick, 1958). In less than ten years (eight to be exact) the Army corps of Engineers had "worn out two dredges and were working on a third" with their work and time yielding very little progress in return (Alexander and Lazell, 1992). Alexander and Lazell note on page 55 of their work "Ribbon of Sand" that "by the time channels were dredged from sea to sound, their mouths would have already shoaled up again. Over the course of the winter, whole channels would simply disappear. Finally, in 1837, Congress appropriated additional funds to build a jetty to protect the Ocracoke channel. But just before the jetty was complete a violent gale destroyed it. Thus between 1826 and 1837, Congress had spent nearly 133, 750 dollars to stabilize the inlet, and had nothing at all to show for its largess".

Ocracoke Inlet as of 2009, showing significant shoaling, along with both ebb and flood tide deltas.
        This example goes to show that the laborious  process of inlet dredging, shoaling, and re-dredging is surely not something new. Many experts see dredging and inlet stabilization as simply a temporary solution to a permanent problem, as the inlets serve as huge financial burdens.Admitted no two inlets behave in the same fashion, most will indeed shoal up over time, simply due to natures natural processes of barrier island dynamics.Aside from Ocracoke and Hatteras Inlets, Oregon Inlet, further north on the banks has problems of its own as well. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would need between "$12-15 million each year to keep Oregon Inlet operational" ( With a dwindling budget for dredging operations, the processes of inlet stabilization and dredging will need a more coast effective solution.
         With growing year-round populations on the banks, and more prosperous cities along the sounds of the inner-banks, dredging and inlet stabilization will continue well into the future. However, those in charge of dredging at the Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation must become aware of the natural processes they are interfering with. Constant dredging disrupts natural sand transport which helps to develop flood tide deltas on the sound side of the island, which actually helps increase barrier island width. So instead of viewing the inlets through a stirctly anthropogenic lens, and thinking about what we need to do to keep them in order, perhaps we as humans should look at them through a lens which helps us to realize what the inlet is doing to keep us in order.

"Man is the barrier islands greatest enemy, not the sea"- Paul Godfrey, Ph.D

Link to the recent article concerning the dredging of Hatteras Inlet-


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Welcome to the Coastal North Carolina Blog!

Welcome! As one may infer from the title, this blog will cover all things realted to the North Carolina Coast. Anything from culture to climate will be discussed throughout this blog. If there happens to be a hiatus of news concerning the coast, don't be suprised to find a history of culture, development, climate and geography about a region of the North Carolina Coast.

         This first post will be an introduction about me, the NC coast, and why I am writing this. First things first, my name is Peter, and although I have a passion for the North Carolina Coast, I hail from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I continue to live today. A sophomore at Temple University, my life typically revolves around school, work, and the outdoors. My interest with the NC Coast started about a year and a half ago, when I spontaneously began reading anything I could get my hands on that concerned the NC coast. The first book, and still one of my favorites, was Bob Simpson's When The Water Smokes: A Peltier Creek Chronicle (  The book, set in late 20th century Carteret County, chronicles the daily life, events, and nature outings of the author, Bob Simpson, all while centering around Simpson and his wife refurbishing a boat, and sailing it down the intracoastal waterway.
         Through this book, Simpson managed to capture the culture and natural environment of Carteret County. This book not only reminded me of the many vacations I spent on the Crystal Coast and surrounnding areas, but also sparked an interest which has led me on a path of discovery and has opened me up to a subject which I have grown to love. Since reading Simpson's book I have read over 15 books and counting concerning the subject of the North Carolina Coast, ranging from academic works by Dr. Stan Riggs at East Carolina University, to the in-depth works of "The Chronicler of the Outer Banks" David Stick.
        In essense, I am writing this to serve as a outlet for my interest and passion for the North Carolina Coast, and to share my interest with others who may be interested (assuming I'm not the only one).