The Kayak Chronicles ©
by Darren Caffery
Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina
COLINGTON ISLAND CIRCUMNAVIGATION
Thursday May 27, 2004
Colington Island actually consists of two main residential islands in the sound just west of the Bodie Island barrier island and the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. There are a number of meandering creeks to explore in addition to the open waters of the Kitty Hawk Bay, Blounts Bay and the surrounding larger sounds. The land on the two main islands is surprisingly high for an area so close to the shoreline and is home to pine, holly, dogwood and oak. The island also has steep irregular hills which are thickly wooded and separated by low swampy land.
Although there are no white sand beaches on Colington island, I find it to be very paddler friendly. There are many protected creeks, marshes and canals that wind through and around the island to provide a full day paddle. The proximity to open water is also a nice feature for those sea kayakers looking for a bit more excitement. No matter which direction the wind is blowing, it’s always possible to find a protected side of the island to paddle. The shores of the island are mainly wooded with homes interspersed between the tree lined shore and the open waters of the Kitty Hawk Bay provides a good view of the Wright Brothers Memorial to the east on the barrier island.
On Thursday May 27th, our OBX group launched from the site near the second bridge on Colington Road at about 9:30 am. The sky was sunny and clear and the temperatures were in the mid 70’s and very comfortable for paddling. There was a mild breeze and nothing to add any resistance to our paddling. We started our adventure by paddling northward into the Blounts Bay and rounding the island to the west as we entered the wide open waters of the vast Albermarle Sound. Paddling the sound was fun as we had the shoreline of Colington Island to the east and the wide open water to our west. The Albermarle sound is over 40 miles wide at one point and this great distance of open water provided a great backdrop to our paddle. After rounding the island in to the sound we paddled a southerly course along the shoreline until we reached a small park where we decided to take a quick break. After a quick retreat, we continued southward along the shoreline until we approached Buzzards Bay. Rather than paddle back into the creek to our takeout, we decided to cross the bay and continue southward along the shoreline of the barrier island and the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve. We saw many waterfowl and even stopped for a break at a duck blind which was in the middle of the bay. One of our paddlers plucked a land turtle from the middle of the water and returned him to the shoreline.
We stopped along the heavily wooded shoreline a few times to explore the natural beauty of the area. The highlight of the day was when we had the opportunity to observe a bald eagle perched in a tree. Suprisingly, it allowed us to get relatively close and we snapped a few pictures. Not to wear out our welcome, we then decided to continue on our way. At about 3 pm and after about 9 miles of paddling, we approached the shoreline and huge sand dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park where we took another short rest break.
After the break , we continued our paddling trek northward up the coastline towards the Colington Creek. We kept a nice steady pace and after finally entering the creek we decided that the day was just too perfect to stop paddling. Since we still had energy, we decided to extend our circumnavigation to include the marshy wetland islands to the north of Colington Island. When we finally rounded the marshy wetlands and made our way to our takeout, we had paddled close to 19 miles for the day. Although most of us were tired at the takeout, it was still unanimously a great paddle.
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