Masonboro Island State Natural Area

Masonboro Island State Natural Area

Located along the southern section of the North Carolina coast, Masonboro Island holds the distinction of being the most significant undisturbed barrier in the area. Its boundaries stand against the Masonboro Inlet, The California Beach Inlet, The Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, to the North, South, East, and West, respectively. 

The 8.4-mile-long island is a dedicated nature preserve, and almost 90% of it bears a tidal flat and marsh covering. Dredge material islands and beach uplands make up the remaining amount. As you’d expect, there is a whole slew of exotic species present. This is supported by the intertidal and subtidal areas in which various salinity patterns lie. Masonboro Sound is home to very nutrient-rich waters, which means summer flounder, pompano, menhaden, bluefish, spot, and mullet all benefit from a perfect nursery area. 

The residents enjoy a series of conducive habitats, including dredge spoil areas, hard surfaces, tidal flats, shrub thickets, maritime forest, dunes, ocean beaches, etc. Unfortunately, several species present, such as the loggerhead and green sea turtles, are endangered, based on the federal government’s classification. The Wilson’s plovers, black skimmers, and the oystercatcher are among those of most significant concern. 

A polychaete worm from the Notomastus genus and the Hartmans Echiurid have made their home inside sound sediments. Both species are on the state watch list.

The only way to reach the island site is by boat, and there are several private and public boat ramps present in and near areas, such as the New Hanover County Trails End park, the Carolina Beach, and the Wrightsville Beach. 

If you’re interested in seeing what the incredible reserve looks like up close, you can hire a private ferry to take you. The boats stop along the island’s North and South sides, and you can walk across the island’s trails to see the miles of undisturbed Ocean Beach. So long as the vegetation and habitat are not affected, the public is free to utilize areas between dunes, open tidal flats, and beach areas. 

Note, however, that the grassy flats, dunes, eelgrass beds, and low marsh grass communities can be easily affected by visitors’ presence and activities. Therefore, there are careful considerations to avoid any such problems. 

If you have a camper spirit, you should be happy to know that there’s a primitive camping experience that you can take advantage of on Masonboro Island. Areas that have seen previous camping activity are easy to find, and these are the ones that you are expected to use. Remember that avoiding disturbances of the vegetation is very important. 

When your camping period is over, any personal property you brought along with you must be packed up and removed within 48 hours. 

Masonboro Island is so protected because of the intention to keep the habitat, communities, sites, and natural character of the location intact to benefit North Carolina citizens. Research and educational purposes are heavily involved as well, which is why the National Estuarine Research Reserve and the NC Coastal Reserve have been commissioned and established to protect the estuarine and coastal sites, respectively. 

If you want to learn more about the coastal reserve, it’s best to visit the official website, giving you insight and guidance into the various sites and how the program works.

Are you a plant person? Do you love to garden? If so, you are going to want to visit The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden at Piney Ridge Nature Preserve.

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