The Kayak Chronicles ©
by Darren Caffery
Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina
ROANOKE SOUND & WANCHESE HARBOR
Sunday May 23, 2004
On Sunday May 23rd, our second day in the Outer Banks, all 9 members of our Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association group were ready to launch by 9 am. The sun was shining and the air temperature was already in the high 70’s. Winds were blowing at about 10 knots from the west when we launched our kayaks from the public ramp on the south side of the Baum Bridge which connects Roanoke Island with the barrier island of the Outer Banks at Nags Head.
Our journey started with a southward exploration of the undeveloped coastline of the Roanoke Sound along the southern portion of Roanoke Island. This leg of our paddling brought us along quite a few miles of sandy beaches, marshlands and quiet tidal creeks. Unlike northern portions of Roanoke Island which are more developed with housing, the entire area we paddled was undeveloped and is protected as a wildlife refuge.
The paddling conditions in the sound were excellent. The water temperature was in the 70’s, the winds were favorable and there was little chop to slow us down, even though we were in no rush. There was very little powerboat traffic and we seemed to have the entire sound to ourselves. After paddling the first few miles we ducked into a small creek called Johns Creek where we observed turtles, and quite a few egret. The air temperature began to rise into the 80’s and a few paddlers decided to land on a small beach and hydrate by drinking some water. After a short break we made our way southward along the coastline towards the entrance to a larger creek called Broad Creek. The winds picked up slightly as we ventured south and created some nice rolling swells to add some interest to this leg of the paddle.
It was nearing noon as we approached the entrance to Broad Creek. With some visible islands in the distance with white sand beaches, we decided to paddle farther into the sound towards the islands to look for a place to land to eat lunch. After paddling out into the sound along the shores of these islands, we notices most of them had signs on their beaches warning that these were bird nesting grounds and were off limits to humans. We finally found an island to land our kayaks at where we had lunch in the midday heat and sun. The island where we landed was no larger than ¾ acre and had a large sand dune on it. We could see the Bodie Island lighthouse and the Oregon Inlet Bridge many miles in the distant south.
After lunch, some wading in the warm sound waters and exploration of the island shore, we decided to paddle back toward the coastline of Roanoke Island and to enter into the small working fishing village of Wanchese Harbor. Our trek across the sound was about 2.5 miles and after about 40 minutes of paddling we entered Wanchese Harbor. The harbor had a unique character which was reminiscent of a small New England fishing village. The odor of fish permeated the area and the shores of this old harbor were lined with working and dilapidated fishing vessels, loading docks, and a few restaurants and marinas which looked like they had weathered quite a few storms in their history. On our trek into the harbor, we also observed quite a few pelican.
Since it was Sunday, the harbor was very quiet and there was virtually no boat traffic. There was also very little sign of human life along the shores. One marina was open and a few paddlers saw this as an opportunity to land their kayaks and scout the area for some ice or a cold drink. Within a few minutes we were talking to some local fishermen who pointed us in the direction of the marina store which sold ice cold drinks and ice. After chatting with the locals who seemed intrigued by our kayaks and the length of our route, we made our way back out of the small harbor and back into the Roanoke Sound.
On the return trip back up the coast, we kept up a nice relaxing paddling pace with a few breaks and some creek explorations where we saw many more turtles and pelicans and a few snakes. We finally landed back at the Baum Bridge ramp at about 3 pm and after close to 13 miles of paddling. Paddling this undeveloped coastline was a beautiful way to spend our 2nd day in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
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