Tags: dismal swamp
Three state parks have closed in anticipation of bad weather and other parks east of Interstate 95 are subject to closing on short notice as Hurricane Sandy passes the North Carolina coast.
Additionally, ferry service and camping is suspended at Hammocks Beach State Park, the four-wheel-drive access beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is closed, and all trials at Pettigrew State Park are closed.
Before visiting a state park east of I-95, call the individual park office for conditions or check the state parks' Alerts page.
National and state parks in North Carolina have announced closings and cancellations as the state awaits Hurricane Sandy's trek up the East Coast.
The Cape Lookout advisory says visitors staying in the island rental cabins or on the beaches are advised to leave the islands or to seek areas that are protected from overwash. Vehicle ferries were to stop taking visitors to the islands today and work to remove visitors.
Visitor Centers in the Outer Banks Group, which includes Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial, will remain open until close of business Saturday then remain closed until further notice, a news release for the three parks says.
Ocracoke Campground, the last Cape Hatteras campground open this season, will close at noon on Saturday for the season (the season would have extended through Monday).
Park beaches at Hatteras will close to off-road vehicles by 5 p.m. on Saturday and remain closed until further notice.
The Forest Service plans to keep roads in Croatan National Forest open through the weekend.
North Carolina state parks affected by the storm - Jockey's Ridge, Dismal Swamp, Carolina Beach, Hammocks Beach, Lake Waccamaw, Merchants Millpond, Pettigrew and Goose Creek - will announce plans individually, possibly on short notice.
In addition to those parks, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area has announced that its Fall Festival and Haunted Trail scheduled for Saturday evening have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The Halloween program at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park set for Saturday has been cancelled as well.
Hurricane Sandy is being called a major threat to portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
North Carolina's state parks had a banner year in 2011, recording 14.25 million visits, which matches the all-time record set in 2009 and slightly exceeds the 14.19 million park visits in 2010, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation said in a news release today.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County had the highest attendance last year at 1.32 million visits, which was actually a bit fewer than 2010's 1.47 million.
Among 39 state parks and state recreation areas, 15 reported increases in attendance in 2011.
Parks with significant increases in visitation include Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County (34 percent), Elk Knob State Park in Watauga County (50 percent), Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County (26 percent), Kerr Lake State Recreation Area in Vance County (24 percent) and Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County (31 percent).
Several parks with new or improved amenities opening last year saw big jumps in attendance. A new 700-foot swim beach and picnic area at Lake James State Park opened for its first full season, and the park saw a 70 percent jump in visitation. A renovated marina opened at Carolina Beach State Park, a new equestrian trail network opened at Medoc Mountain and a number of hiking trails, including a volunteer-built summit trail, opened at Elk Knob.
Full attendance figures are available here.
Officials with the National Park Service say they've reopened all beaches and many ramps along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore after Hurricane Irene, but note that the southern half of the island and Ocracoke Island remain closed to non-residents.
Hatteras officials have found "damaged rooftops, water intrusion either through flooding or roof leakage in numerous facilities, scattered debris and tree limbs, and missing or damaged boardwalks, signs, posts and fencing materials," a news release says.
North of the breaches in N.C. 12, Coquina Beach and all its facilities have reopened, but the Oregon Inlet Campground remains closed.
Unless signs say otherwise, beaches are open to pedestrian access throughout the park. Here is a list of ramps open to off-road vehicles.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, including the lighthouse, is essentially open for day use. Some parts of Portsmouth Village and sensitive natural areas remain closed. Shackleford Banks has reopened for day and overnight use. There's still no water in the park except for bottled water sold at the visitor center.
Five of the National Wildlife Refuges on the coast - Alligator River, Cedar Island, Mackay Island, Mattamuskeet and Swanquarter - have reopened, and Pocosin Lakes was to open today. Pea Island remains closed. Various roads, trails and boat docks at each re-opened site remain closed because of hurricane damage.
No update from Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which is administered in Virgina, was available.
Goose Creek State Park and Dismal Swamp State Park are the only coastal state parks that remain closed. At Goose Creek, the Dinah's Landing boat ramp on the western bank of the creek has reopened, the Division of Parks and Recreation says.
We've tried to round up Hurricane Irene damage reports to coastal parks and recreation areas, but reporting is sparse so far.
The biggest problem is the several breaches to N.C. 12, the main highway on Hatteras Island, the largest of which is shown in the DOT photo below. This leaves the island south of Rodanthe, including Cape Hatteras National Seashore, cut off from cars.
At Cape Lookout National Seashore, "The Cape Lookout lighthouse is standing," a National Park Service news release says. "All docks appear impacted with varying amounts of damage and should be considered dangerous. Structures have roof and siding damage. Infrastructures, including the back roads, have also sustained damage."
At Carolina Beach State Park, the staff was clearing debris and working to reopen trails and camping areas by Tuesday afternoon, the Wilmington Star-News said Monday. Nearby, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area reopened Sunday.
In addition to Carolina Beach, the state Division of Parks and Recreation said Tuesday morning that eight other state parks remained closed to all visitors: Cliffs of the Neuse, Dismal Swamp, Goose Creek, Hammocks Beach, Jockey's Ridge, Merchants Millpond, Pettigrew and Medoc Mountain. In reopened parks, the state said, some trails and facilities may remain closed until assessment and cleanup is complete.
Nineteen state parks were closed in eastern and central North Carolina late last week prior to the storm.