Trip Number: 12199A
Staff: Glenn Gillis
- Learn about the history of the Outer Banks
- Explore the swamps and view the wildlife of the North Carolina mainland
- Sea kayak and hike through a special maritime region
- Experienced sea kayaking guide service
- Kayaks, paddles, and life jacket
- Admission to several national historical sites
- Most meals and camp site fee
Unfortunately, this trip has been cancelled. If you
have questions, please
Stretching along the Atlantic coast of North Carolina waits a magnificent string
of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. This dramatic coastline offers
a combination of history and natural beauty that is truly special. Nowhere along
America's overcrowded Atlantic seaboard will you find a coastline that remains
as pristine as these fabled islands. The Outer Banks curves for over 150 miles
from Virginia's Back Bay to Cape Lookout near Beaufort, North Carolina. Lying
between the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and the quiet inland waters of
Albermarle and Pamlico sounds, waits a maritime world waiting to be explored.
The Outer Banks are characterized by marshes teeming with wildlife, windswept
dunes, swaying sea grass, and a realm of sea, sand, and sky that stretch to
the horizon. The area is renowned for sunrises and often wild and unpredictable
wind. The Atlantic Ocean dominates these islands. The continental shelf lies
only a few miles offshore, and breaking waves are the highest in the east. Off
the shore from Cape Hatteras lie the treacherous waters of Diamond Shoals. The
forces of high seas and shallow surf once caused the loss of so many ships that
the area has been forever labeled the "graveyard of the Atlantic."
Inland from the Outer Banks lies a different world. Here, on the North Carolina
mainland you will find forested swamps and open marshes alive with animal life.
Much of eastern North Carolina is protected as national wildlife refuges. Alligators,
black bears, and red wolves are found throughout the streams and forests that
characterize the region. A major east coast flyway, birdlife reaches its peak
during the autumn months.
Photo: Glenn Gillis
The area is rich in American history. For generations the Native American lived
along the islands where they were closely tied to the land. The first, but unsuccessful
English Colony was founded on Roanoke Island. The "Lost Colony" now
lives on in legend. The most notorious pirate of them all was Blackbeard, who
met his fate off the shore of Ocracoke Island. With its tall sand dunes and
high winds, the Wright brothers selected Kitty Hawk as the spot to launch the
birth of flight. The nation's Life Saving Service that became the United States
Coast Guard was founded on these shores. The service played a major role in
sea rescues during the Civil War and World War II, with hundreds of ships being
sunk to the bottom of the sea. Five famous lighthouses line the Outer Banks,
with Cape Hatteras being the tallest in the nation. Thanks to visionary conservationists
like David Stick, much of the Outer Banks and North Carolina mainland are now
federally protected nature preserves. Hopefully, the Cape Hatteras and Cape
Lookout national seashores will always guard this priceless coastline.
Our week-long Sierra Club national outing will explore the region by kayak.
From our base camp at Oregon Inlet, we will spend each day kayaking and hiking
the various parks and historic sites from Currituck Sound to Cape Hatteras.
Kayaking highlights include Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Alligator River
National Wildlife Refuge, historic Roanoke Island, Pea Island National Wildlife
Refuge, Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, and Kitty Hawk Maritime Forest.
Ample time on the days that we kayak, along with two layover days, will allow
for hiking and sightseeing at such attractions as Fort Raleigh National Historic
Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Nags head Woods Nature Conservancy,
Jockey Ridge State Park, and, of course, Cape Hatteras. The kayaking tours will
be supported by Kitty Hawk Kayaks, who will provide the kayaks, boat shuttle,
paddles, and life jackets.
Day 1: We will meet at Oregon Inlet Campground for group
introductions and tour orientation. After visiting Bodie Island Lighthouse and
Visitor Center, we'll kayak through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
south of Oregon Inlet. At the end of the day, we'll enjoy watching the Atlantic
fishing fleet return to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Marina.
Day 2: Today we'll kayak the canals and open marshes of Roanoke
Island. We'll savor early American history, with stops at Fort Raleigh National
Historic Site (scene of the "Lost Colony"), Queen Elizabeth II State
Park, and the charming town of Manteo.
Photo: Glenn Gillis
Day 3: During our day off from kayaking, we'll climb the
highest sand dunes along the Atlantic coast at Jockey Ridge State Park, and
hike through the maritime forest of the Nags Head Nature Conservancy.
Day 4: We'll leave the Outer Banks for a day of kayaking
on the isolated North Carolina mainland. During our paddle through the Alligator
River National Wildlife Refuge, we'll look for alligators, black bears, and
Day 5: Today we'll head to the northern end of the Outer Banks
for a day of kayaking among the waters of Currituck Sounds. After visiting the
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge and seeing wild horses, we'll stop at the
Currituck Beach Lighthouse.
Day 6: On our second day off from kayaking, we'll head south
to Cape Hatteras. We'll hike a section of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail along the
pristine beach of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. After another hike in the
Buxton Woods Nature Preserve, we'll climb the tallest lighthouse in America
at Cape Hatteras to look out over the Diamond Shoals and the Graveyard of the
Day 7: Our final day of the trip. After breaking camp, we'll
kayak through the canals and maritime forest of the Kitty Hawk Woods Maritime
Forest, finishing up by saying our goodbyes and driving home.
Although we have a planned itinerary, weather and other conditions can potentially
cause a change of plans. Since we will always have the Atlantic Ocean as our
back yard, we should have time for ocean swimming and sunbathing on the beach.
The Outer Banks are somewhat isolated for public transportation. The nearest
airport and rental car service is located nine miles north in the city of Norfolk,
Virginia. Major roads do serve the Outer Banks, and motels are located in the
nearby towns of Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills. We will carpool
each day from camp to meet Kitty Hawk Kayaks for our kayaking tour, and to hike
and sightsee along our route.
Accommodations and Food
Our base camp for the week will be at the group camp in Oregon Inlet Campground
within Cape Hatteras National Seashore near Oregon Inlet Fishing Marina. Oregon
Inlet is somewhat pristine and wild. The campsite is located among the sand
hills near the Atlantic Ocean. Tree cover does not exist, and mosquitoes can
sometimes be a problem. The campsite includes tent sites, picnic tables, fresh
water, and cold showers. Although sparse in amenities, no campground has more
atmosphere. The Oregon Inlet Fishing Marina is nearby, and makes an ideal spot
for relaxing at the end of the day. Food will be purchased by the leader and
prepared by the group in the camp, with an emphasis on cereals, pastas, and
grains with meat additives. Vegetables will be served at every meal so vegetarians
can be accommodated. Three of our dinners will be eaten out at local restaurants
(enjoy the local seafood), and not included in the trip price. On Sierra Club
outings all participants share equally in cooking and camp chores. Leave No
Trace camping procedures are always followed.
The kayaking should be considered moderate. All paddling tours will be on
marshes and inland waters, and not the open Atlantic Ocean. Participants must
feel comfortable kayaking for about four hours and roughly eight miles a day.
Although wind, sun, and current have the potential to make paddling difficult,
you do not need to be an expert kayaker. You simply need to be comfortable paddling
on open water, and strong enough to make it through the day's tour. Basic kayaking
and safety procedures will be taught by the group leaders before the start of
the first day's outing. The hiking will be around five miles over sandy but
totally flat terrain. The only problem could be sun and insects.
Equipment and Clothing
For camping at Oregon Inlet, participants will need to bring at tent (with
extra long stake for sandy soil), sleeping bag, ground pad, eating utensils,
rain jacket, wind jacket, swim suit, personal overnight kit, eating utensils,
and personal items that include suntan lotion and insect repellent. The leader
will bring the food, stoves, commissary gear, tarp, and master first-aid kit.
On the water, please bring a dry bag, rope, whistle, bailer, sponge, and water
bottles. The leader will provide the kayaks, paddles, and PFDs. For hiking bring
your standard day pack. Do not forget your camera and binoculars. The above
list is only a small indication of what participants need to bring on this outing.
A complete equipment list will be sent with the later information bulletin.
As the father of the Cape Hatteras national Seashore, enjoy reading David Stick's
"Cape Hatteras Seashore" and "Graveyard of the Atlantic."
Many guidebooks are available on how to learn sea kayaking. Consult your local
outdoor store like EMS or REI for suggested readings.
National Park information:
For information on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic
Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial check Outer Banks Group:
Outer Banks Group
1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954
Although a large section of the Outer Banks is protected within the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore and neighboring national wildlife refuges, the region is under
constant threat. The Norfolk Metropolitan Area has dramatically grown in recent
years and now reaches a population of over 2 million. This has opened up the
Outer Banks to major growth in nearby towns like Nags Head or Kitty Hawk. These
towns are now dominated by motels and fast food restaurants. Where sand hills
and sea grass once reigned, uncontrolled development has rapidly taken over.
The northern end of the islands was always pristine and totally undeveloped.
This is no longer the case. New seaside homes and commercial establishments
now stretch north to the town of Corrola. Pressure has been building for a new
bridge across Currituck Sound that would shorten the time for vacationers heading
south to the Outer Banks. All this development naturally threatens the web of
life that emanates from the tidal marshes and waters of eastern North Carolina.
To protect the natural environment of these fragile barrier islands, strict
laws must be put in place that keeps growth away from the marshes and tidal
wetlands. The sand hills and sea grass beds have always lived under constant
threat of hurricanes ad strong northeasters. Animal and bird life struggles
to survive. We must guard America's beauty and natural heritage by giving permanent
protection to the area by expanding federal and state protection. It's a source
of great pride that much has been done to protect the area. We must always do
what is necessary to protect these fabled Outer Banks.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Glenn Gillis has been a leader in adventure travel for over 25 years. An avid backpacker, bicyclist, and sea kayaker, he has run outings from the coast of New England to the Rocky Mountains, from the High Sierra to the Great Smoky Mountains. Starting as a student with Colorado Outward Bound, Glenn became an outings leader with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club, and Potomac Pedalers Cycling Club. His greatest interest is in the field of land preservation and new parks and trails creation. He does advocacy work with the National Park Conservation Association, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and Wilderness Society. A director of the Potomac Heritage Trail Association, he is working on the construction of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail from Pittsburgh to teh Chespeake Bay. A native Virginian, Glenn's father was born and raised on the Outer Banks. He has always considered the area a second home. This will be his third Sierra Club national outing to the Outer Banks.
John Kovacevic has led Sierra Club Outings in the Rocky Mountains, Boundary Waters, Okefenokee Swamp, Coastal Georgia, and South Carolina. Although he has hiked and paddled across America, John considers kayaking the southeast coastline to be his favorite paddling destination. He is a graduate of the Sierra Club's Leadership Training Course, and served as the Sierra Club Southeast Finance Officer. He is also a certified Wilderness First Responder and ACA-certified kayak instructor. John teamed up with Glenn for three other Sierra Club national kayaking tours over the past year. They both enjoy kayaking the national seashores and wildlife refuges of America's South Atlantic coast.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips