Hammocks Beach State Park

Geobox Protected Area
name = Hammocks Beach State Park
native_name =
other_name =
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category_local = North Carolina State Park
category_iucn = III

image_caption = Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park
etymology_type =
etymology =
country = United States
state = North Carolina
region_type = County
region = Onslow
location =
lat_d = 34
lat_m = 37
lat_s = 55
lat_NS = N
long_d = 77
long_m = 08
long_s = 44
long_EW = W
elevation_imperial = 0
elevation_round = 1
area_unit = acre
area_imperial = 1145
area_round = 1
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established_type =
established = 1961
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management_body = North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
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visitation =
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free_type = Nearest city
free = Swansboro, North Carolina
free1_type =
free1 =

map_caption = Location of Hammocks Beach State Park in North Carolina
map_locator = North Carolina
map_first =
website = [http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/habe/main.php Hammocks Beach State Park]

Hammocks Beach State Park is a North Carolina state park in Onslow County, North Carolina in the United States. Located near Swansboro, it covers convert|1145|acre|km2 [ [http://www.nccoast.org/Restoration/LivShore/hammocks/livingshorelineshammocksbeach Living Shorelines: Hammocks Beach State Park — nccoast.org ] ] and consists mainly of Bear Island, but also nearby Huggins Island, and Jones Island, along the Southern Outer Banks, or Crystal Coast.

Bear Island

Bear Island, which is three miles (5 km) long and has a south-facing beach, is characterized by an extensive dune system, a pocket of maritime forest, and a shrub thicket and marsh on the north, or sound side of the island. It is popular with daytrippers, boaters, kayakers and campers. While it serves a recreational function, with a new bath house and primitive camping sites, the vast majority of the island is wild and undisturbed. Most of the animals on Bear Island, which doesn't actually have any bears, flew or swam through tidal creeks and marshes to make their home on the island. Fresh water is scarce and only found in a few ponds in the forest between some dunes. Recent hurricanes have had a considerable impact on the oceanfront beach/dune system. [ [http://www.ncsu.edu/coast/pjournal/ncsouth/bear/bear.html Science Junction - Bear Island ] ]

A ferry service runs from the Hammocks Beach State Park headquarters on the mainland to Bear Island via Cow Channel. While the ride, which some 200,000 people a year take, is only 15 minutes long, it is narrow and winding. The channel has increasingly become more difficult to navigate at low tide since 1996 due to sand migration in the estuary and a series of hurricanes. Shoaling in the channel has been constant since ferry operations began in the early 1960s, and has worsened in recent years due to hurricane activity, particularly in the half-mile stretch of the channel nearest the island. During low tides, the park has used 11-passenger skiffs to ferry passengers rather than its convert|40|ft|m|sing=on, 28-passenger boats. The ferry service was temporarily curtailed in 2002 because at low tide, the water was "extremely low" in a convert|200|ft|m|sing=on section of the channel. It was shut down completely for several months in early 2007 for an emergency dredging project in the channel route to the island. Ferry service to the island runs Monday and Tuesday on the hour every half hour from 9:30am till returning at 6:00pm and Wednesday through Sunday every half hour from 9:30am till returning at 6:00pm during the summer season. Tickets range from $3 Seniors 62 and over, $5 Adults 13 - 61, $3 Children 6 - 12, and kids under 5 are free. Everyone must have a ticket to ride the ferry.

Huggins Island

Nearby Huggins Island, which sits just inland from Bear Island between it and the mainland, largely consists of a convert|110|acre|km2|sing=on thick maritime forest with many large live oak trees. The island is mostly flat with no sand dunes, and is about a quarter of the size of Bear Island. At the western end of the island, from which the town of Swansboro can be seen, is a large marsh. Huggins Island is only accessible by private boat, and there are no facilities, and camping is not permitted on this island. An even smaller island near Huggins is known in the area for its collection of sharks teeth, which wash in with the tide on the eastern tip, giving it the name Sharks Tooth Island, but it is not part of Hammocks Beach State Park. Both islands are also popular with kayakers, many of whom rent the boats from [http://www.barrierislandkayaks.com Barrier Island Kayaks] in Cedar Point, which is near Swansboro, and paddle across the busy Intracoastal Waterway to get to the islands. Huggins Island became a part of Hammocks Beach State Park in 2000.


Dugout canoes once traveled the vast coastal waterways as woodland Native Americans journeyed between the mainland and surrounding islands. These Native Americans participated in the Tuscarora wars against colonists in 1711 and 1713. Hostilities continued from hideouts around Bear Island until the middle of the 18th century when the Native Americans migrated northward.

Dugout canoes soon gave way to pirate ships. The inlets along the coast and the shallow waterways behind the barrier islands were havens for pirates. Here they could prey upon merchant vessels and hide while repairing their ships. Among the pirates who frequented the area was the notorious Blackbeard. Spanish privateers also terrorized the colonists. For protection, the colonists built several forts, including one near Bear Inlet, which was erected in 1749 and has since disappeared.

Due to its location, Bear Island has often played a role in the protection of the mainland. During the Civil War, Confederate troops on the island defended it against Union forces occupying Bogue Banks. The island again assumed military importance nearly a century later when, during World War II, the Coast Guard used it to secure the coast and monitor German U-boat activity.

Early in the 20th century, Dr. William Sharpe, a neurosurgeon of New York, came to Bear Island to hunt. His love of the island prompted him to acquire it for his retirement. Sharpe intended to will the property to John Hurst, his longtime hunting guide and friend, but Hurst persuaded him to donate it to the North Carolina Teachers Association, an organization of African American teachers. In 1950, the group assumed the deed to Bear Island and attempted to develop the property. Limited funds and the island's remoteness rendered their efforts unsuccessful. In 1961, the association donated the island to the state of North Carolina for a park. Initially planned as a park for minorities, Hammocks Beach State Park opened for all people following the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [ cite web | url = http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/habe/history.php | title = Hammocks Beach State Park History | accessdate = 2007-11-03 | publisher = North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources]


External links

* [http://www.ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/habe/home.html Park home page]
* [http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/habe/habe.jpgMap of the park]

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