SHACKLEFORD BANKS, part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, is just one of many ecologically significant locations
along the coast. They include six sites near Wrightsville Beach that are part of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine
Research Reserve system.
The Rachel Carson Reserve is located
between the mouths of the Newport and
North Rivers and directly across Taylor’s
Creek from the historic town of Beaufort in
Carteret County. The mix of fresh and salt
water creates a pristine estuarine environ-ment
where juvenile fish and invertebrates
find shelter and food. Horses brought to the
site by a local citizen in the 1940s eventually
became wild, and are considered non-native
inhabitants of the islands. To maintain the
health of both the horses and the island eco-system,
select female horses are given birth
control, through a remote injection, once
per year. The horses subsist primarily on salt-marsh
cordgrass and they dig for fresh water.
Permuda Island is a small narrow island
located in the extreme southwestern portion
of Onslow County. Archaeological evidence
indicates the earliest occupation occurred as
early as 300 B.C. The central portion of the
island contains former agriculture fields. Fish,
shrimp, crabs, clams, and oysters utilize the
Stump Sound estuary as a nursery ground.
Shorebirds frequent local marshes and mud-flats.
River otters are occasionally found in
marsh and sound areas.
Masonboro Island is the largest undisturbed
barrier island along the southern part of the
North Carolina coast. Eighty-seven percent of
the 8.4-mile-long island is covered with marsh
and tidal flats. The remaining portions are
composed of beach uplands and dredge material
islands. Loggerhead and green sea turtles nest
on the beaches, where seabeach amaranth plants
grow on the foredunes. The nutrient rich waters
of Masonboro Sound are an important nursery
area for spot, mullet, summer flounder, pom-pano,
menhaden, and bluefish.
WBM october 2018
Zeke’s Island Reserve is located 22
miles south of Wilmington. The lagoon-like
complex is one of the most unusual
areas of the North Carolina coast. Both
the Atlantic loggerhead and green sea
turtles, federally protected threatened
species, occasionally nest on the site’s
open beaches. The expanse of intertidal
flats in the vicinity is the single most
important shorebird habitat in south-eastern
5BALD HEAD WOODS
The 191-acre Bald Head Woods
is part of the Smith Island Complex,
located just east of the Cape Fear River.
It features extremely old, large trees in
this maritime forest. Live oak and laurel
oak are the major species, comprising
a canopy that shelters the plants from
salt spray. The lack of light favors shade-tolerant
plants like ebony spleenwort.
Cars are not allowed on the island, but
bicycles and golf carts may be rented.
Bird Island is an undeveloped bar-rier
island located at the southwestern
edge of the North Carolina coast,
situated between Sunset Beach and the
Little River Inlet in South Carolina.
The Reserve site represents excellent
examples of barrier communities with
several occurrences of rare species. The
most notable are nesting loggerhead sea
turtles (Caretta caretta) and seabeach
amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus), a
plant of the foredune area. Both species
are listed as threatened by the federal
and state governments.
Descriptions are excerpted from the North
Carolina Coastal Reserve website
From top: River otters, seabeach amaranth,
black skimmer and loggerhead sea turtles.