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Masonboro Island
Wrightsville Beach, NC

Evidence suggests that the first stretch of continental American coastline described by a European explorer may have been Masonboro Island. The explorer was Giovanni da Verrazzano, the year, 1524. Later, during the Civil War, Masonboro's beaches were visited by three blockade runners and one Union blockader.

Before 1952, Masonboro was attached to the mainland. That year, Carolina Beach Inlet was cut, giving Carolina Beach a booming tourist fishing trade and creating the largest undisturbed barrier island on North Carolina's southern coast. Eight miles long, Masonboro Island consists of 5,046 acres,4,300 of which are tidal salt marshes and mud flats. Masonboro is part of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, which also includes Zeke's Island south of Federal Point on Cape Fear River.

Most impressive is the island's profusion of wildlife, some endangered. Loggerhead turtles successfully nest here, as do terns, gulls, ghost crabs and brown pelicans. Their neighbors include gray foxes, marsh rabbits, opossums, raccoons and river otters. Herons, snowy egrets, willets, black skimmers and clapper rails forage in the creeks and mud flats at low tide. The estuarine waters teem with fish, shellfish, snails, sponges and worms. Masonboro's accessibility to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington's marine biology program, among the world's best, makes the island an ideal classroom for studying human impacts on nature.

Masonboro Island is a peaceful place where generations of locals have fished, hunted, sunbathed, surfed, camped, and sat back to witness nature. Small wonder Masonboro Island has always been close to their hearts. Accordingly, the Coastal Management Division of the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources administers the island with as little intrusion as possible. Camping, hunting and other traditional activities are allowed to continue, albeit under monitoring intended to determine whether the island can withstand such impact. Reach Masonboro by boat or private tours. Renting a kayak is another fun way to get to the island.

 

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