The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Circumnavigating Durant Island

Wednesday May 21, 2003

Ever since reading about this island in Pam Malec's Sea Kayaking Guide to North Carolina, I've been interested in planning a trip to this area.  Although it's only about 30 minutes west of the densely populated Nags Head Beaches, the remoteness of the area amazed me.  The island is in an undeveloped area which was once used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to house the red wolf.  The project didn't work too well.  All the wolves swam to the mainland where they still exist today.  The island is still very remote and undeveloped, but is now privately owned.  The remoteness and pristine beauty of the area make it a spectacular place to kayak.
On Wednesday, May 21, our JSSKA group met up with a local North Carolina paddler, Dan Colodney.  Dan previously lived in NJ and after some email correspondence prior to our arrival to the Outer Banks, joined us for our circumnavigation.
We launched into Broad Creek near South Lake at about 8:30 am to begin our counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Durant Island.  Winds were only at 5-10 knots and were not expected to increase at all. Air temperature was comfortably in the high 60's. This made great conditions for a paddle along the coastline of some very open water.  The sun played hide and seek behind some clouds all day but luckily, we never saw any rain.  
The first few miles of paddling from Broad Creek into East Lake were spectacular.  The lake was lined with seemingly endless acres of hardwood trees.  It was quiet and very serene and the still, dark cedar water reflected the clouded sky in the most beautiful way.  Although we didn't even see or hear any birds for the first few miles, we were followed by quite a few of those very large buzzing carpenter bees.   We could see Durant Island in the distance as we paddled a northeasterly course toward it's shoreline and to the entrance to the Albermarle Sound via Haulover Point.  On our way, Dan told us he often sees black bear and fox along the shoreline of the lake however they did not make an appearance during our trip.

After paddling about 6 miles, we took a break at Haulover Point and gazed out at the Albermarle Sound and distant coastline about 8 miles in the distance to our north.  We then continued paddling westward in the Albermarle Sound along the coast of Durant Island until shortly reaching the entrance to Tom Mann Creek after about 2 miles of paddling.  From here we got a good view of the two small cottages that were on the island.  Reportedly, Durant Island is privately owned by a few men who occasionally visit the area to hunt and fish.   The island has no modern services such as electric or plumbing.  We also noticed a small elevated watersupply tank between the two cottages.  The cottages were very rustic and one had a very nice screened in porch to protect from the local flying nasties which I would imagine could be brutal in the proper season.  
As we paddled past the cottages, I imagined what spending a couple of days might be like on the confines of the island and in the cottages. It all seemed very appealing to me.
We decided to explore the creek a bit deeper which got very narrow as we continued.  Thick poison ivy lined the shores of the creek so we were all very careful not to paddle into the edges of the waterway.  The creek was even quieter than the lake. The sun had started to peek out a bit more and it started to get warmer. Turtles poked their heads up from the water of the creek as we paddled by.

 When we were finished exploring the creek, we continued back out into the Albermarle Sound past a small shipwreck which looked like nothing more than an old rotting bulkhead. Tom paddled inside it and we snapped a few pictures.  We also passed an osprey nest in a old, dead and high tree on the shoreline of Durant Island. We soon found a nice white sandy beach where we landed and had lunch.
After lunch and another 3 miles of paddling along the wooded coast of Durant Island we reached a point of land which then opened to the Alligator River.  The river was calm and the mild conditions made for an easy 4 mile paddle back to our takeout at Broad Creek. We landed at about 3 pm after about 16.4 miles of paddling.
After confirming our plans with Dan for the next day's paddle, our group of Jersey paddlers made our way back to the civilization of Nags Head on the barrier island of the OBX.  We all enjoyed dinner and drinks later that evening at Webb's Crab Shack in Kill Devil Hills.  With their bibs on, Joyce and Chuck enjoyed what looked like a small bushel of hardshell blue claw crabs.  They reminded me of summers at the Jersey Shore.


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