The Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve is located on the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk. The reserve encompasses a total of 1,890 acres and is bordered by Albemarle Sound on the west, and Kitty Hawk Bay to the south, which contains the reserve’s Kitty Hawk Bay Islands. The town of Kitty Hawk, in a conservation easement with the state, owns 461 acres. This site is also a Dedicated Nature Preserve, authorized by G.S. 143B-135.250.
Kitty Hawk Woods hosts several globally rare plant communities, including maritime deciduous forest, maritime swamp forest, and interdune ponds. These communities exist on the relics of ancient sand dunes. Visitors will notice striking differences between the habitats at Kitty Hawk Woods and those more affected by salt spray and wind shear at the beach, which is only a quarter-mile away!
The maritime deciduous forest, maritime swamp forests, and freshwater wetlands: The ridges (high points) and swales (low spots or depressions) found at Kitty Hawk Woods are evidence of relict sand dunes and indicate the locations of ancient shorelines. In the varied topography of this maritime forest, visitors can find wetland plants, such as the bald cypress, as well as upland plants, such as the American beech.
The sound: Historically, Currituck Sound was directly connected to the ocean through a series of inlets. However, the locations of coastal inlets change over time. The last inlet to connect Currituck Sound to the Atlantic Ocean closed in 1828 due to natural shoaling. The distance from our closest inlet (more than 20 miles south at Oregon Inlet) results in a low salinity, brackish estuary system. Water levels here are more affected by wind than by lunar tides, and salinity fluctuates depending on wind and rainfall. This estuary serves as a primary nursery area for fish, habitat for a wide variety of birds, and an overwintering area for waterfowl.
Wildlife: Due to its diversity of habitats, a wide variety of plants and animals are found in Kitty Hawk Woods. The area is a great place to go birding; especially during the migration season. It's also a wonderful place to look for amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Many animals, such as raccoons, owls, and river otters, are nocturnal and can be tough to spot, but keep an eye out for tracks and scat. Kitty Hawk Woods also contains four species of orchids and a number of globally rare plants. A plant inventory, Guide to the Vascular Flora of Kitty Hawk Woods, was published in 2016 and contains a comprehensive checklist of plants found in Kitty Hawk Woods.
Visiting the site
As with all Coastal Reserve properties, traditional recreational activities are allowed at the reserve, as long as they do not disturb the environments or organisms, or interfere with research and educational activities. Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve offers opportunities for hunting (see below for detailed information), hiking, nature study, and kayaking. ATV use is not allowed in Kitty Hawk Woods. Pets must be leashed at all times, and pet wastes removed. The reserve is closed to the public from sunset to sunrise.
There are multiple access points for the reserve in the town of Kitty Hawk.
Hiking trails: Public parking access to the interior of the woods can be found at:
- The end of Ridge Road (Ridge Rd Trailhead),
- The end of Birch Lane (Birch Ln Trailhead), and
- At the intersection of Amadas Lane and Colleton Ave (4 x 4 required).
See our site brochure for a map indicating trailheads. Parking for these access points is in the public right of way. Please respect private property as these access points are in residential neighborhoods. Visitors are asked to stay on the designated trails.
Kayaking: High Bridge Creek (also known as Jean Guite Creek) is accessible by boat from the public boat ramp on Bob Perry Road. From here, you can paddle north into the interior of the reserve, or south to access Kitty Hawk Bay.
Multi-use path: This path is maintained by the town of Kitty Hawk and parallels The Woods Road. Hikers can use this path to access the eserve entrance on Covered Bridge Road. No cars are allowed on this road. Parking is located at Sandy Run Park or Paul Pruitt Park, both are located along The Woods Road.
Be a responsible visitor: check out the reserve rules and policies before your visit.
Hunting is allowed within Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. Hunters must agree to follow the rules and regulations of N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the Town of Kitty Hawk, Dare County, and the N.C. Coastal Reserve. Hunters are responsible for knowing and abiding by all hunting regulations and knowing Reserve boundaries.
Hunters are required to have a (1) valid state hunting license AND (2) a valid N.C. Coastal Reserve hunting authorization. See information below to obtain this license and authorization.
(1) Obtain your state hunting license from N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Note: You must obtain this license before you can apply for N.C. Coastal Reserve authorization.
(2) Obtain N.C. Coastal Reserve authorization.
- Step 1. Complete the online form and view the informational slide show, which is required as part of completing your authorization.
- Step 2. Your Reserve Authorization for Kitty Hawk Woods will be issued to you after your online form is completed and delivered. Your authorization number will be emailed to you. This authorization number can be used to fill out your paper authorization.
Your Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve authorization will include a list of Reserve hunting regulations as well as a map of hunting locations at Kitty Hawk Woods.
Your signed and dated Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve authorization, as well as your N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission license and a valid ID, must be carried with you at all times while hunting.
Hunters are required to report all successful harvest information to the Reserve using this online form.
For more information, contact Erik Alnes, Phone: 252-475-7219.