Maritime Forests by Diane Lea

As the “Quiet Season” on Hatteras Island comes to an end and residents and visitors look to the Easter Holidays and the opening of seasonally closed businesses, there is one more adventure to enjoy before the seasons change.  That is walking, hiking or running in the verdant maritime forests that comprise Frisco and Buxton Woods.  The trails are kept clear year-round and the critters are not ferocious, but at this season of the year, the bugs are at a minimum!  Hallelujah!  The Frisco and Buxton Woods are part of a roughly 1,000-acre swath of forest known as the North Carolina Coastal Reserve System.  Bordered by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the System is described on the Outer Banks website as part of one of the largest tracts of maritime forest remaining on the Carolina coast.

Most of us have noticed entries to this sylvan landscape at several locations.  There is a .75-mile long nature trail that opens at the picnic area across Lighthouse Road from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  A bit further along Lighthouse Road is a cleared parking area at the British Cemetery; it’s the beginning of a wide trail that goes all the way to Frisco.  There are also several less obvious entries off residential roads – Flowers Ridge Road, Water Association Road and Old Doctor’s Road.  The trail heads in these residential areas are usually not well marked, but it is possible to source out the trails with a little effort.  

What is most surprising is the diversity of the landscape along these roads.  In these few remaining undeveloped parcels, set with dense vegetation our Native American predecessors would have recognized, we find surprising vistas of huge brackish ponds, towering sand dunes and sandy paths that lead to the Atlantic Ocean.  Because of the varied landscape, it’s tempting to imagine the scenery of mountain trails, though substituting giant live oaks for tall evergreens.

It’s not necessary to give up all amenities while exploring our Frisco/Buxton wilderness.  The National Park Service manages a campground close to the Billy Mitchell Airport in Frisco.  The campground is situated at the highest point of Hatteras Island and has some lovely ocean views.  A private campground, Frisco Woods Campground, is also available, it’s long been a favorite of surfers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Rental houses are among the accommodations offered.

Lastly, we can collect a significant amount of maritime forest history by visiting the Frisco Native American Museum, located just a half-mile from the Frisco Woods Campground.  In addition to exhibits of the natural history of the area, the museum hosts an annual Hatteras Island Powwow to celebrate the original inhabitants of Frisco/Buxton Woods as well as the future of our area. This year’s event will be held April 25-26.  It is billed as a Native Journeys Festival and will include music (with drumming), dance, food and hands-on learning.  The group War Paint will perform.

And while you’re walking through our scenic forests, don’t forget to look for the legendary Buxton Woods alligator.  Nobody has seen him yet, but you could be first.

One thought on “Maritime Forests by Diane Lea

  1. Thank you for the great post. I look forward to another Hatteras adventure soon. I did want to note that the Native American Museum in Frisco is most if not 99% western Native American culture and artifacts so I was very disappointed to not see more eastern Native American tribe and particularly the Roanoke tribes. Maybe this has been changed since 2018l. it is a great thing and I wish the community the best celebrities.

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