Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head, NC

Jockey's Ridge State Park, Nags HeadJockey's Ridge State Park

Park Info

At some time in the distant past tremendous quantities of sand were transported from the sea floor to the barrier islands forming a series of large sand dunes stretching for several miles. The huge hills of barren sand have been a significant feature of the Nags Head area for centuries. Jockeys Ridge, the highest of these dunes, reaches a height of over 100 feet at its peak and is in fact the highest active sand dune on the entire Atlantic Coast. This nationally significant natural area was preserved as Jockey's Ridge State Park in 1975 for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Contained within its 385 acres are a unique assemblage of shifting sand ridges, dense shrub thickets, temporary pools and soundside habitats.

To appreciate the beauty of Jockeys Ridge, one needs to stroll among the dunes and observe their unique wonders. Pick up a handful of sand. Where did it come from? How did it get here? Perhaps from the rocks of mountains hundreds of miles inland on a journey lasting millions of years. Notice the colors, the sculptures created by the wind, the ever-changing scenes that each new day brings.

Look at the variety of plants in this miniature desert. How do they survive the soaring summer temperatures of the constantly shifting sands? Plants such as American Beach Grass are able to send new shoots as the moving sands begin to cover them and their tough curling leaves are able to withstand the sand-blasting and high temperatures. What other adaptions can you find?

What about the animals? Their signs are everywhere around you. An abundance of tracks from tiny beetles to gray foxes crisscross the sands. A tremendous variety of birds find food and shelter in the thickets between the dunes and along the brackish water of the Roanoke Sound.

Although at first glance it may just seem like a large pile of sand. You are invited to explore Jockeys Ridge State Park and discover that it is indeed a unique place of beauty, mystery and infinite variety.

Access and Information

Jockeys Ridge State Park is located along the famed Outer Banks in Dare County, North Carolina. The park entrance is at Milepost 12 on US 158 By-pass (South Croatan Highway) in the town of Nags Head. Facilities include a natural history museum, restrooms and 8 picnic shelters with tables and grills. Camping is not available at the park.

Activities include hiking, nature study and photography, hang gliding and kite flying. Hikers are advised to stay on designated routes to the Ridge. Contact the Park Ranger for information concerning hang glider take-off and landing zones. The view from atop Jockeys Ridge is the most spectacular along the Outer Banks, especially at sunset.

Photo Courtesy of Eric Peterson



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