Robert Rehder, an alumnus of the 50-year-old camp, wrote about
the halcyon days he and his crew enjoyed back when Hutaff was
known only by a few hardcore fishermen (“Drum Fishing Off Hutaff
Island,” September 2021 Wrightsville Beach Magazine). He called
to ask if any of our members would be camping the first week of
October because he had been contacted by a local Scout leader
who wanted to take his troop to Hutaff. Rehder, of course, knew the
It had been a few months since I had checked on the camp —
we let it grow over every summer when the oppressive heat and
fierce competition from the island’s flora and fauna makes camp-ing
prohibitive. But except for our annual fall cleanup, it should
have been camp-ready for the Scouts.
I landed a mile down from the camp at a place we call Dead
Man’s. I brought a pole rigged with a spoon and walked along the
break, intently watching the surf zone for any signs of redfish. I
plugged a few sloughs, but mostly enjoyed the walk. The water
When I got in front of the big dune, I noticed an osprey hovering
above the camp. He seemed to be marking something. When I made
my way past the big dune and up the trail into camp, the osprey rose
high in the sky and flew out toward the inlet. At the head of the trail,
I noticed tracks from a four-wheeler. That was unusual. It was the first
sign I was about to walk into a desecrated place.
When I reached the end of the trail where it disappears into
camp, I knew something was wrong. I walked into the clearing and
there was not a trace of the camp. It was completely and utterly
I was overwhelmed with emotion and had to collect myself. I
shot a quick video and walked back down the beach, not fishing
now, just trying to come to grips with the loss of something dear.
I sent the video in a group text to all the men I knew who would be
affected by the camp’s destruction. My phone chirped until I finally
cut it off at midnight.
There was a continuous stream of comments, shared photographs,
and remembrances. It was as if a close friend had unexpectedly died.
We never owned the camp any more than an osprey owns the
nest he builds. As any coastal ornithologist worth their salt will
tell you, a well-built nest is likely to be appropriated by an oppor-tunistic
owl. We knew that people who had no hand in building
the camp, might occasionally use it. We just did not figure there
would ever be an organized effort to destroy it.
Editor’s Note: The N.C. Coastal Land Trust acquired the beach, dunes, hammocks and saltmarsh that make up Hutaff Island in 2021.
No concise explanation has yet emerged as why the hidden, 50-year-old camp was dismantled after the acquisition.
Randy Williams, the author of this firsthand account, is the “old salt” quoted in “The Island That Won’t Be Tamed,” our look at
Lea-Hutaff Island in May 2017.
View of the Hutaff dune and hidden camp photographed from the creek while leaving the island on a high tide circa 2007.