Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beaufort, NC: Sanctuary


Copyright K Buffaloe
Visitors to Beaufort NC generally stroll along the sidewalks, shopping for clothes, souvenirs, or confections in one of the stores lining Front Street. Many stop to eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the scenic waters of Taylor's Creek, admiring sailboats resting in placid waters or one of the yachts moored along the shore. But across the creek is a strip of land seen, but ignored until a feral horse appears and begins grazing near the marsh. This is Carrot Island, a "cluster of small islands, salt marshes and spoil banks"(1), also known as the Rachel Carson Estuarine Research Reserve.


Just over three miles long, and one mile wide(2), the reserve is named for the author and scientist who conducted ecological research there in the 1940s(1). It is an estuarine. A place where fresh water meets salt. That mix creates a critical environment for plant and wildlife.
Copyright K. Buffaloe

The island system is accessible only by boat, so we parked on Front Street near Island Ferry Adventures in time for the one o'clock departure. Though the trip across the creek took less than five minutes, Captain Farmer gave us a brief tour, providing tidbits on Taylor's Creek and Carrot Island, and then pointed out one of the feral horses grazing in the marsh before dropping us off on the western tip of the island.

Copyright K Buffaloe
Standing on a small stretch of beach within sight of downtown Beaufort isn't the getaway some desire, but within seconds, the scenery caught our attention.

Copyright K. Buffaloe

Copyright K. Buffaloe

Copyright K. Buffaloe

Copyright K. Buffaloe
Though we spotted ibises, oyster beds, and the two horses we saw during the ferry ride, the beach ended at the edge of a marsh. Out of walking space, we backtracked through the soft sand and rounded the tip toward the southern end of the island. Minutes later, we encountered hundreds of tiny crabs scurrying from the water to nearby brush.

Copyright K. Buffaloe

Copyright K. Buffaloe
Copyright K. Buffaloe
This crescent strip of sand also ended in a marsh, but a trail led over the dune and into the maritime forest. Following a line of wooden markers, we hiked past evergreens, over burrs that stuck on our socks and shoes, into what we hoped would be the interior of the reserve. We found Indian blankets growing in the sand and teasing views of both the Atlantic and Beaufort.

But no pathway into the interior. Fortunately, the Maritime Museum in Beaufort often hosts a "Horses, Hiking, and History" tour that takes visitors on a three-hour trek through the reserve. For more information, go to www.ncmaritime.org/main/events.htm


During the hike back to the ferry rendezvous point, we were treated to the sight of an osprey flying overhead, and a run in with the fiddler crab's cousin, the ghost crab.

Copyright K. Buffaloe
Copyright K. Buffaloe
Copyright K. Buffaloe

The Rachel Carson unit is one of ten protected estuarines in North Carolina. For information, go to www.nccoastalreserve.net/

For more information on the Rachel Carson Reserve, go to  www.nccoastalreserve.net/About-The-Reserve/National-Reserve-Sites/Rachel-Carson/58.aspx

For more information on Island Ferry Adventures, including tours, destinations, prices and seasonal dates, go to www.islandferryadventures.com/

Our thanks to Captain Farmer and Molly for making our trip even more enjoyable. I look forward to the Shackleford Trip.


1. Natural Traveler: Along North Carolina's Coast (John F Blair) pg 217
2. http://www.nccoastalreserve.net/About-The-Reserve/National-Reserve-Sites/Rachel-Carson/58.aspx

4 comments:

Bob D said...

Nice article. I've never explored the western end of the reserve... well, not by foot... I have paddled around the entire reserve. RCER is a wonderful place to explore and observe nature.

Kimberli said...

Thank you! I should do another post on estuaries and the research performed on this reserve.

Kayak/canoe is a great way to explore the island. What a great view of the reserve you must have had!

Bob D said...

There are portions of the complex I find very productive for photography. I visit those areas pretty much weekly via the kayak. It is a great way to explore the outer edges of the reserve. However, that never gives one a complete view. The interior portions of the islands is also worth exploration.

I look forward to your post on esuaries and the research done on RCER.

Kimberli said...

We have yet to kayak, and I regret that. There are too many places accessible only by boat.

We're missing so much scenery. At least one vendor in Beaufort offered kayak rentals, but we opted for the ferry in hopes of hiking around the island.

The estuary/research article will take awhile. I had intended to include the information in this post, but the research was taking longer than expected. Though I tried, I was unable to find a reputable source that answered my questions in the time frame I was working under.

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