February 2014: Carolina Beach State Park

Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Hostilities with the local Cape Fear Indians caused settlement to come slowly to this region. The small tribe was driven away in 1725 and a small English town established. The British designated Cape Fear as one of its five official Colonial ports of entry and the economic fortunes of the locals brightened accordingly. The peninsula became an island in 1929 with the dredging of Snow’s Cut for the Intracoastal Waterway. The state of North Carolina recognized the unique environment at the junction of the waterway and Cape Fear River and in 1969 spent its first money for a park since the purchase of Mount Mitchell in 1916. Carolina Beach State Park - named for the town since it is not on the ocean - was established that same year. 

Carolina Beach State Park boasts one of the most extensive trail systems on the Carolina coasts. The feature canine hike among a half-dozen named paths is the Sugarloaf Trail that leads to a 55-foot high pile of sand on the bank of the Cape Fear River. Sugarloaf Dune appeared on navigational charts as early as 1738 and was an important landmark for river pilots. The Confederacy also made use of the dune during the Civil War, stationing 5,000 troops near here as part of the defense of Wilmington. The Sugarloaf Trail winds for three miles through a typical Southern forest of pines and live oaks and eventually leads to a triad of ponds, each with its own personality. All told there are six miles of sandy, paw-friendly trails here.  

It can be a violent world underfoot in these quiet woods. The Fly Trap Trail will take you into a shrub bog where the lack of nutrients in the soil have led some plants to turn insectivorous. Venus’ Fly Trap is a rare plant that grows in the wild only in southeastern North Carolina and a few spots in South Carolina. When an insect twice touches the tiny hairs inside its hinged leaves, Venus’ Fly Trap snaps shut, digesting the victim in lethal juices.

After driving across the Intracoastal Waterway on the Snow’s Cut Bridge turn right at the second stoplight onto Dow Road. The park is on the right on State Park Road.