North Carolina Icons: Barrier Islands and Wild Horses

NC IconsIn this installment of our NC Icons series we take a look at the Barrier Islands and Wild Horses, numbers 37 and 50 in Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons list. Our State strongly recommends a trip out to the beloved Outer Banks where you can visit the barrier islands and, “In Corolla and Shackleford Banks, you can see North Carolina’s most famous horses.” The barrier islands are a a unique environmental landmark here in North Carolina and home to a fascinating ecosystem.

UNC Press has several books worth exploring if planning a visit to this part of the state. Dirk Frankenberg’s The Nature of North Carolina’s Southern Coast: Barrier Islands, Coastal Waters, and Wetlands provides an in-depth perspective, complete with rich photographs, on the natural processes that shaped these islands and their ecosystem. Meanwhile, The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future delves into the current state of the barrier islands to discover how our present actions and interference are affecting them and what needs to be done to ensure a more sustainable future. For a more cultural and historical take, David Stick’s classic An Outer Banks Reader, compiles pamphlets, periodicals and essays from the last 450 years.

The Nature of North Carolina's Southern Coast by Dirk FrankenbergFor some years, The Nature of North Carolina’s Southern Coast has stood as an essential resource for all who treasure our coastal environment. In this book, Dirk Frankenberg describes the southern coast’s beaches, inlets, and estuaries and instructs readers in the responsible exploration and enjoyment of some of North Carolina’s most precious natural areas. From Ocracoke Inlet to the South Carolina border, this field guide provides a close-up look at a complex ecosystem, highlighting the processes that have shaped, and continue to shape, North Carolina’s southern coast.

Frankenberg identifies over 50 different areas of interest along 180 miles of coastline and presents images to help identify natural processes, plants, and plant communities. In addition, he addresses threats to these fragile coastal areas and possible solutions for these threats. Tom Earnhart’s new foreword brings the book up to date, helping us appreciate why a deeper understanding of this environment is crucial to its continued enjoyment.

The Battle For North Carolina's Coast by Stanley RiggsThe North Carolina barrier islands, a 325-mile-long string of narrow sand islands that forms the coast of North Carolina, are one of the most beloved areas to live and visit in the United States. However, extensive barrier island segments and their associated wetlands are in jeopardy. In The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast, Stanley Riggs and three other experts on coastal dynamics examine issues that threaten this national treasure.

According to the authors, the North Carolina barrier islands are not permanent. Rather, they are highly mobile piles of sand that are impacted by sea-level rise and major storms and hurricanes. Our present development and management policies for these changing islands are in direct conflict with their natural dynamics. Revealing the urgency of the environmental and economic problems facing coastal North Carolina, this essential book offers a hopeful vision for the coast’s future if we are willing to adapt to the barriers’ ongoing and natural processes. This will require a radical change in our thinking about development and new approaches to the way we visit and use the coast. This book is an urgent call to protect our coastal resources and preserve our coastal economy.

An Outer Banks Reader edited by David StickFor half a century, David Stick has been writing books about the fragile chain of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast known as the Outer Banks. Two of his earliest, Graveyard of the Atlantic: Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast and The Outer Banks of North Carolina: 1584-1958, were published by the UNC Press in the 1950s, and continue to be best-sellers.

More recently, Stick embarked on another project, searching for the most captivating and best-written examples of what others have said about his beloved Outer Banks. In the process, more than 1,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals, historical documents, and other writings were reviewed.

The result is a rich and fascinating anthology. The selections in An Outer Banks Reader span the course of more than four and a half centuries, from the first known record of a meeting between Europeans and Native Americans in the region in 1524 to modern-day accounts of life on the Outer Banks. Together, Stick hopes, the sixty-four entries may provide both “outlanders” and natives with an understanding of why the Outer Banks are home to a rapidly growing number of people who would rather spend the rest of their lives there than any place else on earth.

For further information and resources about the barrier island and wild horses, visit the North Carolina State library website. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for more from our NC Icons series in the coming weeks.