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Rachel Carson Reserve

101 Pivers Island Road
Beaufort, NC

Business Description

The Rachel Carson Reserve, located just south of Beaufort, North Carolina, consists of several small islands including Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island. The islands are more than three miles long and can only be reached by boat or ferry.

The estuarine environment of the Rachel Carson Reserve plays a crucial role in supporting a rich and dynamic ecosystem. The interplay between freshwater and saltwater creates a unique habitat that nurtures a variety of plant and animal life. The marshes and tidal flats provide important breeding and feeding grounds for migratory birds, making the reserve a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. The presence of a small herd of wild horses adds to the allure of the islands, their graceful presence echoing a time when these barrier islands were untamed and untouched by human influence.

Exploring the reserve by boat or ferry offers visitors a chance to witness the harmonious coexistence of terrestrial and marine life. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphins gracefully navigate the estuarine waters, showcasing the interconnectedness of the ecosystem. Sea turtles, including loggerheads and green turtles, find refuge in the reserve’s waters, using the sandy beaches for nesting. As one meanders through the winding channels and creeks, the diversity of fish species becomes apparent, showcasing the importance of the reserve as a nursery for various aquatic life.

Wild Horses on Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge near Beaufort NC

Nature Trails and Boardwalk

Map of Rachel Carson Reserve

The Rachel Carson Reserve offers nature trails that provide visitors with an immersive experience in the diverse ecosystems of the reserve. These trails offer a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the islands, including Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island. As you traverse the trails, you may encounter a variety of habitats, such as marshes, tidal flats, and maritime forests, each supporting its own distinct flora and fauna.


The Town Marsh Nature Trails begin at the northwest beach on Town Marsh.

The Outer Loop Trail (blue) is a 1.1 mile long trail accessible only at low tide and may be muddy.

The Inner Loop Trail (green) is a 0.9 mile long trail.

Carrot Island Boardwalk is situated on the eastern end of the reserve, accessible only by boat. The boardwalk offers scenic views of the Middle Marshes and Shackleford Banks and is also a great place for birding.

The trails and boardwalk are open year-round.

Getting to Rachel Carson Reserve

The boat launch access area is located at:

2370 Lennoxville Road
Beaufort, NC


Ferry services are located along the Beaufort waterfront on Front Street.

White Ibis on Carrot Island NC

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