Bald Head Woods Reserve

Natural Features

The 191-acre Bald Head Woods component is part of the Smith Island Complex, located just east of the Cape Fear River. This component is bounded on the south and east by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the north by the Zeke’s Island site. This site is also a Dedicated Nature Preserve, authorized by G.S. 143B-135.250.

The “highlands” of this barrier island complex consist of Bald Head, Middle, and Bluff Islands, which are three forested dune ridges separated by salt marshes. The Bald Head Woods component of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve is located in the central portion of Bald Head Island.

One of the significant features of Bald Head Woods is the extremely old, large trees in this maritime forest. Live oak and laurel oak are the major species, comprising a canopy that shelters the plants from salt spray. The thick undergrowth consists of wild olive, American holly, yaupon, and catbrier. The lack of light favors shade-tolerant plants like ebony spleenwort. Cabbage palmetto appears throughout the forest. Gray squirrels, raccoons, and opossums inhabit the forest, as do Carolina wrens, cardinals, and painted buntings. Catbirds, towhees, blue jays, and 22 species of warblers migrate through in the fall.

Visiting the Site

Bald Head Island may be accessed by private ferry from Deep Point Marina in Southport. Cars are not allowed on the island, but bicycles and golf carts may be rented, and maps are available to direct visitors to Bald Head Woods. An interpretive trail leads from the parking lot, and a portion of the trail is wheelchair accessible.

Be a responsible visitor: check out the reserve rules and policies before your visit. 

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