Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve: A Wildlife Wonderland

wildlife in Kitty Hawk

Longing to connect with nature? Visit Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve in the NC Outer Banks. Bordered by US 158 to the east and Currituck Sound to the west, it’s a tranquil hidden oasis covering some 1,824 acres of unspoiled natural beauty.

Here you and your family can spend a few serene hours exploring maritime forest and marshland. Towering pines and hardwoods shelter colorful woodland wildlife, while creeks, swamps, and marshes teem with all kinds of waterfowl.

Go hiking, birding, cycling, horseback riding, fishing, and even hunting (in season, with a valid license). Love the water? Choose boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the sound’s sparkling, placid waters. Or picnic by a creek or along the sound and savor a magnificent sunset. By all means, bring your K-9 kid! Pets are allowed, provided they’re kept on a leash.

All this in a stunning setting, far removed from the hustle-bustle yet just minutes from Kitty Hawk Beach.

Multiple Ways to Get There

If you’re traveling by car, park at either of two small lots – one at David Paul Pruitt Park, the other at Sandy Run Park. Both lots give you access to a multiuse path that runs along Woods Road. From this path you can reach the edge of the Reserve and the entrance at Covered Bridge Road.

If you’re coming by kayak, you can reach the Reserve via Currituck Sound. If hiking or biking, look for access via several nearby trailheads (with right-of-way parking available).

Multiple Things to Enjoy

Once you arrive at the Coastal Reserve, be sure to check out the visitor center at 983 West Kitty Hawk Road. Take time to chat with expert staff, pick up informative brochures, and find out how to obtain NC fishing and hunting licenses.

Then get set to explore!

Love sand dunes? Wait till you see the Reserve’s massive dune ridges – some of them thousands of years old – reaching up to 30 feet high. Above them soar tall deciduous trees – red oaks, water oaks, hickories, sweet gums, American beech, and more – along with loblolly pines. These impressive shade-bearers provide protective canopy for turtles, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, gray foxes, white-tail deer, possums, snakes, and even a few bobcats.

This is the Maritime Deciduous Forest, one of the Reserve’s three main ecosystems. Along with hardwoods, this virtually salt-free habitat hosts lush southern vegetation ranging from hollies and flowering dogwoods to Virginia Creeper and muscadine vines.

Between the dune ridges, you’ll find moist lower areas (called swales), where sweet gums, red maples, and bald cypress abound. These are the Maritime Swamp Forests, home to a variety of insects and amphibians, including frogs, toads, and two kinds of salamanders.

All across the Reserve water abounds – from the freshwater High Bridge Creek to the brackish and freshwater marshes, ponds, and estuaries. Cordgrass and black needle rush thrive in the brackish waters, while cattails, willows, and wax myrtles flourish along the freshwater marshes.

A Birder’s Paradise

If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’re in for a treat. Countless birds live, nest, or over-winter in the Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve.

In the drier deciduous forest, you’ll spot owls, hawks, warblers, woodpeckers, wrens, and various local songbirds, all seeking shelter from the ocean’s salty winds.

Near creeks and marshes, you’ll find ducks, ospreys, ibises, kingfishers, and great blue herons. You may even spot a majestic bald eagle nesting atop a cypress tree.

That’s not counting the seasonal visitors. When migratory birds fly south along the Atlantic Flyway, they often stop to rest and recharge at Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve. Come in fall and winter to glimpse Canadian geese and other temporary travelers.

An Extensive Network of Hiking Trails

Hiking enthusiast? You’re in hiker’s heaven. Numerous trails crisscross the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, including some primitive trails blazed over a century ago. Information kiosks along the walking trails provide fascinating details about nearby flora and fauna.

Some wetland trails can be muddy and slippery, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes with traction for safe, secure footing. Also bring along plenty of bug spray: In warm weather the moist environment attracts mosquitos and biting flies.

Water Sports in the Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve

Own a canoe or kayak? A public boat ramp on Bob Perry Road provides access to High Bridge Creek. There’s no fee, so launch and enjoy.

Ready to make a splash? Take a kayaking tour along High Bridge Creek, beneath lush forest canopy. Or opt for a kayak adventure on nearby Currituck Sound, the only freshwater sound in the NC Outer Banks. Either way, you’ll enjoy unparalleled peace and privacy.

With its quiet, sheltered waters, the sound is also a perfect spot for stand-up paddleboarding. It’s ideal for fishing, too, thanks to its abundance of catfish and largemouth bass.

So Close Yet So Secluded

At its eastern edge, Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve lies just a quarter of a mile from the ocean. Yet it feels like a whole separate world, where you can escape the cares and stresses of your busy everyday life. You’ll love it, and so will your family.

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