Every year the winds and rains of the tropical weather that rolls in from the Atlantic Ocean create havoc with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I’ve seen firsthand how they’re working to solve the problem of saving the dunes, for my family recently visited this beautiful park.
The narrow barrier islands of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, known as “A Ribbon of Sand”, extends from Nags Head, NC, curving past Cape Hatteras, and on down through Ocrakoke, NC. This is as far as the road goes. In the extreme heat, we had thought to tour the park from the relative comfort of our air-conditioned car. But that proved to be a bad idea. We needed to get out and walk the dunes, for there was no viewing the ocean from the road. Sand dunes stand in the way of the view.
While driving through the park’s camping areas we were impressed by the unusual outlay of sites. Being a Michigan native, I expected to see trees where the tents and RVs would be located. Instead, the campsites were uniquely nestled among individual dunes, each in its own little haven of quiet solitude. We stopped at an empty site and hiked over the dunes, finally coming within sight of the ocean. Being a windy day, the sights and sounds were exciting. Noisy crashing of the wave swells coupled with the screaming of gulls and honking of huge pelicans as they soared overhead. It takes one completely away from the bustle of everyday life.
As we drove further down the strip, I noticed weather fencing strung out along the dunes. On the Lake Michigan beaches of my hometown, they were called “snow fences,” and used to keep the November gales from blowing the sands away and the snows from drifting over the roadways. At the Cape Hatteras National Seashore these fences were set at a 45 degree angle to the road, about ten feet apart, thus keeping the sands piling up as dunes and not blowing away. The fencing structures stretched for miles. We were delighted to see this effort to maintain the dunes where they belong, at the seashore.
Thank you, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, for your diligence in establishing this unique measure to protect the eastern seacoast dunes. This is recovery monies being put to good use. I often wondered where the sand went after the hurricanes and other storms passed through an area. Now I know. We love the dunes, enjoy hiking over them to the marvelous sights beyond.
As an interesting side note, we learned that years ago pirates like Blackbeard anchored off the southern tip of Ocracoke Island, sometimes coming ashore. However, there’s never been any evidence that they buried treasure there.