The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Maritime Forest Currituck Sound Circumnavigation

Saturday November 8th, 2003

In addition to myself, seven other kayakers from my kayak club, Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association ventured down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Paddlers included Tom Kelly, Deborah Z, Eric Fleming, Bob & Christine Smith, Valorie Nash, and Frank Davis.  As our local NJ weather was starting to cool down, we were hoping to have some warmer weather for our extended weekend of kayaking in North Carolina.  All of our OBX paddlers arrived to our hotel in Nags Head,  North Carolina by early evening on Friday November 7th.
Although we had planned this trip with expectations of warmer weather, we experienced a cold front which plummeted temperatures into the 50s and 60s.  Ironically, temperatures were in the high 80s on the day prior to our arrival.  In addition to the colder than expected temperatures, some high winds forced us to cancel our full moon paddle and change our itinerary a bit.  To top it off, another one of our paddling trips which was to be in the Lake Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge also had to be canceled.  We came to find out that Lake Mattamuskeet is off limits to all watercraft from November to March due to the migrating birds. Luckily we found this out before we traveled the extra  90 miles from our hotel to get there, but unfortunately we didn't get to explore this new area. It's just as well we missed it, I hear the Lake hosts about 30,000 migrating swans anyway....the largest migration of Tundra Swans in the nation! 

Although we didn't paddle on Friday night, we all met for dinner at a local joint in Kill Devil Hills called the Jolly Roger.  After a great dinner, we had the opportunity to watch and one of our more timid members of the club sing karaoke.  Funny how people break out of their shell when they are away from home!  Despite the cancellation of our Friday night sunset paddle due to high winds and some revision of our other paddling plans, we still managed to paddle on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, we ended up paddling the Maritime Forest at Kitty Hawk Woods.  After a 15 minute drive from our hotel, we launched at the public ramp at about 9:15 am.  Although this is usually an area which is typically filled with water moccasins, we paddled the entire 4.5 mile stretch of the  Jean Guite Creek in the Maritime Forest and didn't see one snake!  I guess it was too cold for the cold blooded reptiles. We did however, see quite a few birds, including some kingfisher and a few cormorants.  
After a trip down the southern end of the creek and out to Kitty Hawk Bay, we could see the Wright Brothers  Memorial in the distance across the bay.  We then paddled all the way up the creek  under the covered bridge and ultimately to the Route 158 Bridge where we stopped off at the Kitty Hawk Sports landing where we ate lunch and used the portapotty.  It was a bit chilly once we stopped paddling and the wind continued to blow from the north at about 12-15 mph.  At lunch we talked about our options for getting back to our take-out.  Rather than simply paddle back down the creek back to our take-out, we agreed to continue to paddle upstream to the Jean Guite Bay and ultimately to Martins Point where we could then round the point and paddle back along the shoreline on the Currituck Sound with the wind behind us.  The idea of paddling the next 1.5 miles against the wind didn't sound like too much fun but the thought of seeing some new scenery and paddling in the vast sound on the way back with the wind behind us appealed to our sense of adventure.
We braved the headwinds after the bridge at Route 158 and admired the magnificent homes along the shoreline of the Jean Guite Bay.  It was a bit of work but we all finally made our way to the point.  We could see some small breakers and confused seas as the wind churned the waters of the Currituck Sound at Martins Point.
We all rounded the point in the churning confused waters safely and made our way to some calmer waters as we paddled along the shoreline.  With the wind behind us we glided smoothly on some following swells for the next few miles.  Some deer were observed along the shoreline.  When we approached the Wright Memorial Bridge, we landed for a break at a small park where some festival was going on.  Bob Smith wandered over to the crowd and came back with some hot coffee.  The rest of us stretched and found ourselves getting cold again once we stopped paddling.  After the break, we all launched back into the sound, making our way towards the Kitty Hawk Bay. Bob hit the only rock in the vast but shallow Currituck Sound and managed to take a swim (since you can't roll in 1 foot of water!).  The sun peeked out a few times between the clouds but the day was mostly hazy and gray.
As we reached the Kitty Hawk bay we snuck into a small short cut creek to avoid rounding the another point into the wind.  The creek twisted and meandered through the woods, past a lone but rather large and secluded waterfront home and ultimately to our connecting point on the Jean Guite Creek.
We all landed safely at about 4 pm after 16 miles of paddling and a strenuous but vigorous circumnavigation of the Maritime Forest.  One of our JSSKA members,  Deborah Z, reported this to be her longest paddle so far. Congratulations!
After a short rest back at the hotel, we capped off our evening with dinner and some drinks at the Lone Cedar Cafe on the Route 64 Causeway overlooking the Pamlico Sound. 


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