C IS FOR the Cedar Island National Refuge on the northeastern tip of Carteret County, near Lola. It is one of the “A to Z” attractions contained in the 2015 Business Directory & Visitors Guide, published by the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce.
Kevin Keeler is the fellow with boots on the ground at the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, and he says it’s the best job in the world … overseeing a 14,494-acre workplace … all by himself.
The Cedar Island Refuge was established in 1964, so the facility observed its 50-year anniversary in 2014. The refuge is maintained by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Take Hwy 70 East from Beaufort to Hwy 12. Stay on Hwy 12, and once you cross over the Monroe Gaskill Bridge at Thorofare Bay … it’s instantly obvious that you have arrived. The marsh seems to stretch out forever … as far as one can see. It’s the largest marsh on the East Coast, Keeler says proudly.
The dominant marsh grass is black needlerush, which is dense, coarse, rigid and robust, giving it excellent shoreline protection characteristics. More than 270 species of birds can be found in the marsh at various times of year, so it’s a popular location for birders and photographers.
You can also encounter ducks of all descriptions, wading birds, osprey, hawks, eagles, American alligators, black bears and deer. Visitors are welcome to observe the wildlife, hike, bike, kayak, canoe, go boating, fish and even ride horses. Horseback riding requires a permission letter from the Refuge staff. There are 19.2 miles of fire breaks/trails located on the property.
“We’re open daily from sunup to sundown,” Keeler says. “No camping or campfires. Bring all you need. Leave only footprints. Take only memories.”
The refuge office is located at a former US Navy facility off Lola Road at Cedar Island. It is the eastern-most point on the Carteret County mainland.
The Navy occupied the site as a key radar tracking station for a time during the Cold War, because the views from northeast to due south are unobstructed. The 30-foot Navy tower is still there, serving as a navigational aid to local mariners.
“We welcome visitors,” Keeler says. “If the door’s unlocked, come on in. I’ll put your name in my monthly report.”
Contact Kevin Keeler at 252-225-2511 or Kevin_Keeler@fws.gov or go to at www.fws.gov/cedarisland/.
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce