Hammocks Beach State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park is situated along the southern parts of the Outer Banks. It is located in Onslow County near Swansboro. The park is on 1,611 acres of land. There are 4 four islands in the state park.

These are;

· Bear Island

· Dudley Island

· Huggins Island

· Jones Island

History

Woodland Native Americans traveled to the mainland and surrounding islands. Their vessels were dugout canoes that they built themselves. Between 1711 and 1713, they were involved in many wars against colonists. These battles continued until the Native Americans migrated. They went towards the north in the mid-18th century.

Pirates then occupied the region. There are shallow waterways and inlets along the coast. They made it easier to dock their pirate ships. It also allowed them to attack merchant vessels from vantage points. Blackbeard was the most famous pirate to frequent the region. To protect themselves, colonists built forts. One was built near Bear Inlet in 1749 but has disappeared over time.

Bear and Huggins Islands have played protection roles for the mainland. Confederate troops defended themselves against Union troops on Bear Island. In World War II, coast guards secured the coast and monitored German U-boat activity.

A fort was constructed in 1861 with the help of Confederate troops and local slaves. The fort was built as a six-gun battery on Huggins Island. It was later destroyed by a fire set by Union forces. There are earthen remains where the fort once stood. They have faced nature’s harsh elements and still remain standing in part. They act as evidence of Confederate fortifications in the area.

Dr. William Sharpe traveled to Bear Island to hunt in the early 20th century. He was a neurosurgeon in New York and loved the island so much he bought it for his retirement. He wanted to give it to his longtime friend, John Hurst. Hurst convinced him to donate the island to the North Carolina Teachers Association. The group received the deed in 1950 and tried to develop the land. This was however difficult since they had limited funds. The island was also located in a remote area. The association donated the island in 1961. It was given to the state of North Carolina to make it into a park. Hammocks Beach State Park opened in 1964.

Bear Island

This is a 4-mile long stretch of undeveloped land. It can be accessed by ferry, kayak, or canoe. The island has;

· An extensive dune system

· A maritime forest

· A shrub thicket

· Marsh

It is frequented by boaters, kayakers, day-trippers, and campers. The island is mostly for recreational use. There are camping sites and bathhouses in some areas of the island. Most of the land remains undisturbed and wild. It is inhabited by animals who fly, swim, and live there. They look for fresh water from the few ponds in the forests.

Hurricanes have greatly affected the oceanfront system of beach and sand dunes.

Huggins Island

This island is between Bear Island and the mainland. It has a large maritime forest that covers 110 acres. The forest mainly has large live oak trees. The island is mainly flat with no sand dunes and has a large marsh to the west. The island can be accessed only by private boats. Camping is not allowed and no facilities are available.

Huggins Island joined Hammocks Beach State Park in 2000.

Jones Island

This is at the mouth of White Oak River. The island has;

· Low upland rises to the southeastern and northwestern sides

· Marshes and small ponds to the east

· A coastal fringe evergreen forest to the northwest

· Loblolly pine trees

· Live oak trees

The island was zoned for residential development. This ensures it remains protected in the coming years.

Dudley Island

This is between Huggins Island and Bear Island. It was donated to the state in December 2015. The offer was for a three-year period donation.

Trails

There are many trail options to explore the state park. These are;

1. Beach at Bear Island

Bear Island does not have walking trails designated for the purpose. The beach can however be used for hiking. There are trails on the mainland.

The beach at Bear Island is a 4-mile easy hike on sand.

2. Bear Inlet Trail

This trail begins at the kayak launch towards Bear Island. It ends at Bear Inlet to the west.

You will paddle through the water. The trail is difficult due to various factors. These include the strong currents and proximity to powerboat channels. It is also quite long, about 5.6 miles.

3. Bear Island Trail

It begins at the kayak launch and goes for 2.6 miles. The trail ends at the campsites on Bear Island.

The paddle can be affected by a number of factors, including;

· Strong currents

· Wind

· Tide changes

The paddle is not too hard for beginners.

4. Coastal Fringe Trail

This starts from the Evergreen Trail.

It includes a trail through the coastal upland forest. There are three boardwalks over wet drainages. It offers a moderate hike of 0.8 miles.

5. Evergreen Trail

This starts from the Like Oak Trail.

It has a coastal evergreen forest. The trail connects to the FFA Camp Road. It is a short hike of 0.3 miles. The natural surface offers a moderate hike.

Activities

Hammocks Beach State Park offers a lot of family-friendly activities. There are many things to be involved in at the park. These include;

1. Boating

You can use a private boat or marine taxi. Those using canoes and kayaks can explore the marsh using the canoe trails available. There are markers to identify various interests.

2. Fishing

Catches in the area include;

· Flounder

· Trout

· Puppy drum

· Bluefish

3. Swimming

There is a part of the beach set aside for swimming.

4. Hiking

Explore the park using the trails available.

5. Picnicking

You can pack a picnic to enjoy nature.

Hammocks Beach State Park is the perfect day getaway for the family. There is a full-service visitor center that is the main launch site for all exploration. The park is filled with adventurous opportunities for all. The park’s ecology is also great for those students with an interest in nature.