Cape Lookout received the most votes in an online contest sponsored by USA Today/10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, outdistancing 19 other finalists. The announcement came March 18.
“The timing couldn’t have been better, as June 18 is the celebration of Cape Lookout National Seashore’s 50-year anniversary as a unit of the US National Park Service (NPS),” said Park Superintendent Pat Kenney. “Also, 2016 is the 100-year anniversary of the formation of NPS.”
Kenney received a “Resolution of Congratulations and Appreciation” April 7 from the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce.
“With its 56 miles of magical ocean shoreline, Cape Lookout National Seashore is undisturbed and uninhabited, both wild and pristine,” said Chamber Board Chair Bucky. “Cape Lookout is one of the few remaining natural barrier island systems on the planet.”
Within the park boundaries are Shackleford Banks, South Core Banks and North Core Banks. There’s a whole other ecological world to explore on the “back side” of these islands in the sounds where fresh water blends with saline, creating a prolific nursery for ocean-going creatures. The salt marsh is one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, providing a fertile home for inhabitants of the tide-washed wetlands.
The venerable Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands as a silent sentinel and navigational aid for mariners warning vessels not to approach Cape Lookout Shoals and Promontorium Tremendum, the Horrible Headland. Those ships that failed to alter course were doomed to run aground and become part of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
Interestingly, the Cape Lookout lighthouse is the only one in America indicating direction with its day pattern, as the white diamonds face east and west and the black diamonds face north and south.
The structure is 169 feet tall with a signal light that is visible 19 miles out to sea, appearing to blink every 15 seconds as the light revolves full circle. Visitors can plan their trip to include climbing the lighthouse, all 188 steps or the equivalent of a 12-story building, to experience Carteret County’s most spectacular scenic view.
The lighthouse has withstood about 30 hurricanes over the years and even an assault during the Civil War when Confederate forces tried to blow it up.
Shackleford Banks is inhabited by wild horses and has been for centuries, as scientists believe the herd descends from the Spanish horses of Hispaniola that were brought here by colonists in the 1500s.
At the northernmost tip of the park is Portsmouth Village, once a bustling maritime port. In the mid-1880s, it was visited by more than 1,400 cargo vessels a year and was home to more than 600 residents. It’s now a ghost village – silent with abandonment since 1971 – frozen in time but not forgotten; its village has been preserved as a museum-like reminder of a long-gone time and place.
Today, the NPS calculates that Cape Lookout National Seashore contributes more than $23 million annually to the benefit of the local economy, while supporting more than 330 local jobs.
Oliver said the recognition received from the contest will produce long-lasting benefits, in the form of stimulating even greater visitation in the summer of 2016 and beyond.
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce