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Masonboro Island
Wrightsville Beach, NC

Masonboro Island is a peaceful place where generations of locals have fished, hunted, sunbathed, surfed, camped, and peacefully witnessed nature. It is no small wonder that Masonboro Island is held in high regard by many hearts. Evidence suggests that the first stretch of continental American coastline, as described by the European explorer Giovanni Da Verrazzano, may have been Masonboro Island. 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 the Carolina Beach Inlet was cut. The inlet gave Carolina Beach a booming tourist fishing trade. It also created the largest undisturbed barrier island on North Carolina's southern coast, Masonboro. Eight miles long, the 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 the 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 co-habitants 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. 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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