Another unique reserve can be found tucked away on Hatteras Island on the southern end of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The 968-acre Buxton Woods reserve is located in the village of Buxton and is bordered by the National Park lands.
This reserve is remarkable because it lies within the largest tract of maritime forest left standing on the Carolina coastline. The woodsy areas of pine and live oak-covered dune ridges is interpspersed with maritime swamp forest and marshy wetlands.
The area of the maritime forest closest to the ocean is a shrub thicket community dominated by live oak and red cedar. Further inland, the forest consists of a series of relatively barren dune lines that are stabilized by the bordering woods.
Between the dune lines, broad depressions support seasonally to permanently flooded freshwater marshes, called "sedges." In these ponds, visitors can often spot Cattails, sawgrass, wild rice, and spike rushes.
The saturated soils also support a limited number of Non-woody plants, such as royal fern, cinnamon fern, lizard's tail, and water dock.
Furthest from the salty waters, Sea ox-eye and salt meadow hay can be found. The Outer Banks is known as a resting spot for migrating birds, and Buxton Woods is now exception. In the fall, more than 360 species, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, have been documented in this reserve.
Common mammals that inhabit the reserve year round include gray fox, mink, river otter, and white-tailed deer. There are also a number of reptiles and amphibians who call this area home, including the eastern box turtle, green anole, and southern dusky salamander. In addition, two rare butterflies (northern hairstreak and giant swallowtail) and a moth (Messalina underwind) are also found in the area.
How to get there
Visitors from the north can get to Hatteras Island via NC Highway 12, the only highway on and off the island. Folks traveling from the south can use the North Carolina ferry system, either by the public ferry departing Cedar Island or Swan Quarter, to neighboring Ocracoke Island, and then take the Ocracoke Island free ferry directly to Hatteras.
Once in Buxton, the Reserve can be reached via Old Doctor's Road, Flowers Ridge Road, or Water Association Road, which all branch off of NC Highway 12 and run directly into the maritime forest. Various walking trails also link the state property with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore grounds in Buxton by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
While on your visit
While visiting during the summer and shoulder seasons, visitors may want to bring bug spray. Extra precautions should also be taken while hiking during hunting season from early September through February. Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve is part of the N.C. Game Lands program.
Terms: State Reserves: Buxton Woods
Information on State Reserves: Buxton Woods