Water at Our Doorstep

Jones Island Beach

Jones Island Beach

Most people living along the Southern Outer Banks came here because of the water.  Even a casual visitor soon figures out that we have more types of water than the average spot.

I am pretty ecumenical when it comes to water.  I like to enjoy it all whether it is a mountain stream, the White Oak River, Bogue Sound, or the Atlantic Ocean.

However, there is no question that some water is easier to enjoy than other water.  When we moved to western Carteret County, one of the reasons behind the move was access to water.

While “access to water” seems like a simple concept, it is more complex than it might appear, and I have even called it a puzzle. Solving the puzzle is well worth the effort.

My wife and I wanted to be able to see water and to live right on the water.  While getting a spot on the Intracoastal Waterway or the beach can be very expensive, finding a place on a tidal river can be a reasonable proposition.

After looking at a variety of places up and down the east coast, we chose a spot on a gut of water leading to the White  Oak River.  The White Oak is a relatively short river with no cities right on the river.  Much of the thirty odd miles of the White Oak flows through some of the most undeveloped land in Carteret County.

While the lower part of the White Oak is two miles wide in places and has a few subdivisions along it’s shores, the upper part of the river is much narrower, wilder,  and deeper.  You don’t have to go far up river for it to shrink to under thirty feet wide and to deepen to sixteen feet.  At the same time the shores of the upper river have huge stands of marsh grass which eventually transition to giant bald cypress trees growing right in the river.

But that is not all that is neat about the White Oak.  Just three miles down river from where we live, the White Oak joins Bogue Sound at the town of Swansboro.  While much of the White Oak now flows down the Intracoastal Waterway behind Bear Island, part of it still heads out Bogue Inlet in the Atlantic Ocean.

What all of that means is that if I lower the lift behind our house and put my skiff in the water, I can be in the Intracoastal Waterway in about ten minutes.  With a climate that often has some relatively mild days even in a harsh winter like this past one, I manage to use my skiff twelve months out of the year.  This year I even used it as an icebreaker when the gut behind our house froze for a few days.

Of course there are things that I would rather do with our skiff than go out and break ice. I much prefer a day like Wednesday, May 11, when I left the dock in early afternoon and only rode three or four minutes down the river before anchoring and fishing for a few hours.  It was a warm afternoon, and I was almost alone on the river.  I fished as long as I wanted to and then headed back to the dock.  While I only caught one croaker, I know there will be better days of fishing.  That time on the river was a special kind of relaxation.

We have had some great days fishing in Bogue Inlet and off the beaches of Bear Island and Hammocks Beach State Park.  It only takes another ten minutes from Swansboro to make it to Bogue Inlet where the ocean and the sound meet.

But being able to take a skiff up or down the river is only part of the equation.  It is just as easy if not easier to slip my kayak into the water and paddle down to Jones Island like I did on Thursday, May 12.   Jones Island is now part of Hammocks Beach State park, and it is a great paddling destination from our Bluewater Cove subdivision.    My Thursday trip to the Island was about 4.7 miles and took an hour and thirty minutes.  The beach pictured in the post is the beach on the back of Jones Island.

While kayaking and boating might be enough for some folks, there is even more here on the Crystal Coast.  We are fortunate to have miles of beaches where you can walk as far as your legs can carry you. It takes just over ten minutes by car to get to the nearest public parking at Emerald Isle’s Western Regional Access.

From the WRA and other beach access points, there are miles of beaches to explore on Emerald Isle.  This year I have given myself a personal challenge to walk all the beaches within the town limits of Emerald Isle.  I now have just two miles of beach left to cover. I have had a wonderful spring of beach hikes often between three and four miles each.  Walking on the beach is a wonderful way to clear your head and put things in perspective.

With boating, kayaking, and walking on the beach at my doorstep, it would seem that most water needs are covered, but we are fortunate to have the neighborhood pool just across the cul de sac from our home.  There are many warm days when a dip in the pool is just enough to take the edge off the heat, and if that doesn’t work my favorite technique is to head to the beach and let an ocean wave catch me right between the shoulder blades.  That will cure almost any hot day problems.

With such a selection of water at our doorstep, it should come as no surprise that we have a hard time leaving home.  Having “access to water” along the Crystal Coast has re-defined my life and made for a wonderful experience the year round.

I start each morning by walking out on our dock and then doing a walk around the neighborhood’s boardwalk.  It is a great way to start a day, and if I am given a choice, watching the sun slide into the horizon from the White Oak River is my favorite way of ending the day.

I feel blessed to have so much water at my doorstep. If you are looking for more information on the area, try my Emerald Isle Travel Guide.