Ocracoke Island: Silver Lake - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Originally known as Cockle Creek, Silver Lake Harbor was established in 1931. The creek was dredged and a harbor and marina were constructed. This dredging made it possible for large vessels to come into dock, and Ocracoke Village grew into a fishing village. Ocracoke is unlike any other island on the North Carolina coast. Even though it is a bustling tourist haven, it seems to still exist in another time. The small size, the scarcity of private property, and the limited freshwater help to limit development of the island. The best way to explore Ocracoke is slowly, on island time. Don't hurry. Savor the little things and you will be able to really appreciate this jewel.
Trip Highlights: Clamming on the north side of the island; having a slow, leisurely breakfast on a secluded beach; simply messing around in your boat with no particular place to go and no hard time schedule.
Trip Rating: Intermediate to advanced.
Trip Duration: Four hours to all day-don't hurry; 8 miles.
Navigation Aids: USGS Maps NC00540, Ocracoke, and NC0586, Portsmouth, 1:24,000.
Tidal Information: No significant tidal influence.
Cautions: Bring plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent, and water. You will need all three.
Trip Planning: Fall and winter are the best times to paddle here. The weather is mild, the water temperature stays in the 60s, the rates are down, and so are the bugs. Summer is gorgeous, of course, but can be rather crowded and hot, with lots of biting flies, especially on the sound side.
Launch Site: The launch site is on the southeast end of the island at the end of NC-12, to the right of the Ocracoke Island Visitor Center. You can drop your boat at either side of the ramp before parking your vehicle.
From the launch site, turn left (south) and follow the shore. You will shortly come to the mouth of Silver Lake. I don't recommend paddling in the lake itself except in the off-season due to the heavy boat traffic. Cross the mouth of the lake, keeping an eye out for any boats coming or going. Once you reach the other side, Windmill Point, continue to paddle south, keeping the shoreline on your left. You will pass the inhabited section, where vacation homes line the shore for a half of a mile or so, before leaving civilization behind.
At Springers Point, the island starts to curve southwest. Just past the point is Old Slough, a marshy area that is a good place to view birds and other wildlife.
Continue following the shore as it bends to the right. Along the next mile, the shoreline is more woodsy, with secluded beaches. This is a great area to get out and explore, maybe pull your kayak up on the beach and hike the short distance to the oceanside beaches for great shelling.
Directly across the Ocracoke Inlet, you will see Portsmouth Island in the distance. Once you reach the inlet, turn around and retrace your path back to the launch site.
The wild ponies of Ocracoke have a questionable history. Some say they swam ashore from a Spanish shipwreck, others tell of English ships trying to lighten their load, casting them off to sink or swim ashore. Whichever tale is the truth, these sturdy little ponies have existed on the island for many years. Their number has dwindled over the years: Some were auctioned off and others died of disease. Once able to roam free, they are now penned in a large area off NC-12 about 6 miles southwest of the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry docks. There is a small parking area and a raised platform for visitors to view the remaining two dozen ponies. You may visit them year-round, but don't try to ride them or enter the pens. Although they may look mild-mannered, they are wild and will kick and bite if you get too close.
Excerpted from Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina : The Best Day Trips and Tours from Currituck to Cape Fear by Pam Malec with permission from Falcon Publishing.
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