Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Bodie Island Lighthouse, North Carolina

After driving the Outer Banks for a short time one cannot help but notice the sharp contrast between dense clusters of rental homes perched high on stilts versus the vast open landscape of dunes and marshes leisurely drifting into the ocean.  It is the later part of the equation that makes the Outer Banks super appealing to us.  In the southern portion of the Outer Banks, you can drive for miles through an incredible landscape of sand, dunes, and marsh and not see a home or gas station.  An amazingly large amount of land in the Outer Banks is protected as national parks and national wildlife refuges. 

The other day we decided to venture northward to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  As an ex-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, I try to visit as many refuges as possible.  While the national parks receive a lot of acclaim and praise the lesser known refuges offer great outdoor opportunities for visitors while providing habitat for a complex diversity of wildlife species.  Pea Island NWR stretches over 30,000 acres and covers the spectrum of coastal habitats including beach, dunes, fresh and brackish water ponds, salt flats, and salt marsh.  All of which creates a birders paradise and a nature photographers dream landscape. 

The refuge visitor center offers a great view of the marsh and bird life.
Interpretive exhibits familiarize visitors with common wildlife seen on the refuge.  So where does
the name come from . . . the wild peas that grow on the island.
North of the refuge is another of the Outer Banks famous lighthouses called Bodie Island Lighthouse.  Two things we learned during our visit was that the name is pronounced “body” and it technically is not on an island. Why so deceptive?

Technically, the land where the lighthouse stands was an island back in the 1700’s but shifting sand and time changed that and by the early 1800’s many of the inlets had filled in.  Ah, ha.  So where did the name “Bodie” come from?  Some say it is pronounced “body” because there were so many shipwrecks of the coast with dozens of “bodies” washing ashore.  Others believe that a man named “Body” or “Boddy” settled the island and it was named after him.  Even park service historians are puzzled and can’t say which is correct.  

Regardless, of the origin of the name the lighthouse is a formidable fixture in Roanoke Sound dating back to 1847 when the first lighthouse was constructed.  The current lighthouse is the third structure completed in 1872 standing 156 feet tall.  The powerful first order Fresnel lens illuminated the night sky for 18 nautical miles and the attractive black and white stripes make it a noticeable structure during the day.   

We are finding lots of attractions to see in the Outer Banks and finding little time for sitting on the beach.  Now that the weather has turned beautiful warm and sunny it takes lots of discipline to sit inside and write blogs and since I’m not a very disciplined person it is time for me to go. 


  1. I spent two different summers volunteering at Pea Island and Alligator River NWRs. If you get the chance, looking for bears at Alligator River can be an enjoyable photographic experience.

  2. Having volunteered at three USF&W refuges and visited over thirty more, we share your belief that they offer such great opportunities for wildlife viewing. We've always been struck by the dedication and hard work that it takes to maintain a refuge - thanks for all you did back in your working life!

  3. Nice to see that they did complete the restoration of the lighthouse ... when we visited in 2011, the ranger on duty wasn't sure if they would get all the funding necessary to get the job done.


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