Lighting Up the OBX

OBX Lighthouses

With all the things to see and do on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, one thing definitely needs to be put on every visitor’s to-do list.  Rather there are four one things that need to be seen.

The lighthouses.

Bodie Island Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Ocracoke Lighthouse
The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Bodie (pronounced ‘body’) lighthouse is located just south of Nags Head.  The lighthouse you see today is the third one to be in the vicinity.  The first one was built across the inlet on what is known as “Pea Island” in 1847.  It was abandoned in 1859 because of a crumbling foundation.  The same year, the second lighthouse, also on Pea Island was built.  It had a shorter life span – it was blown up in 1861 by the Confederate troops to keep it from falling into the hands of advancing Union troops.  The one you can visit today is the third lighthouse and was built in 1872.  Using some of the left over building material from the just finished Cape Hatteras lighthouse, it stands 150 feet tall and can be seen 19 miles out to sea.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is also known as America’s lighthouse.  It’s the tallest lighthouse in the country at 208 feet.  It was built to warn ships of the dangers of “Diamond Shoals” which extend almost twenty miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.  The first lighthouse to be built on this same spot was built of sandstone and stood 90 feet tall.  When the Confederates were abandoning this island, they took the Fresnel lens with them to keep the lens from falling into the hands of more Union troops.  In 1999, because of erosion, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved a half mile inland, to save it from the Atlantic. The Lighthouse was cut from its original base and hydraulically lifted onto steel beams.  Then it traveled along railroad tracks to its current position – a process which took 23 days. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is now as far from the ocean as when originally constructed in 1870.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse was the last of the lighthouses on the Outer Banks to be built.  Ships were finding that there was a “dark spot” between the lighthouse on Bodie Island to the south and Cape Henry VA to the north.  This lighthouse filled the gap.  Finished in 1875, its lamp was first lit on December 1st of that year.  It’s the only lighthouse that was left unpainted and you can see the incredible brick work that went into building this structure.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is North Carolina’s oldest operating lighthouse – but is not the original one.  The first one on this location was built in 1798 and was a 54 foot tall tower.  Using a fixed beam method of lighting, its sole purpose was to mark the beginning of the Ocracoke Inlet.    The sands of the island shifted soon though and made the original lighthouse obsolete.  It was replaced by a “light vessel” in 1820.  When shifting sands made this light vessel useless, Congress authorized funds to build the current structure.  It stands 75 feet tall and its light can be seen 14 miles out to see.  There is a 40 minute ferry ride – free – to see the lighthouse and the ferry ride makes the extra distance worth the trip.

The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Roanoke Island was modeled after an 1877 “screwpile” lighthouse that stood on this spot.  While there were once many lighthouses of this type along North Carolina’s rivers and shores, there are now less than a dozen standing.  The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is easily accessible along Manteo’s waterfront and contains exhibits highlighting Roanoke Islands Maritime history.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist living in Asheville, North Carolina.  He has traveled the world documenting the tears, joys, laughter and lives of people everywhere.  He currently focuses his attention and his camera on people, places and things in the United States.  A portion of the proceeds from each photo shoot is donated to organizations that help the homeless in the communities in which he works.  You can see more of his photography by clicking here.

One thought on “Lighting Up the OBX

  1. Pingback: Something Green - Rocket Moms Photo of the week | Arted 4 Life

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