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Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

1000 Loggerhead RoadFort Fisher State Recreation Area
Kure Beach, NC 28449
(910) 458-5798

Picnicking

Whether for a group gathering or a relaxing lunch getaway from work, twelve picnic tables with grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  There is no fee for their use.  Some tables are ADA accessible.

About

Enjoy a leisurely day at the ocean shore. Comb the beach for sea stars, keyhole urchins and whelk shells. Or, simply lie back on the sand and enjoy the aerial acrobatics of seagulls, terns and brown pelicans as they soar above the waves. You may want to venture into the mud flats and marshes to watch sandpipers and other shorebirds as they search for food. Learn about endangered species. Loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers and other rare species nest along this sandy shore. Explore the North Carolina coast; visit Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. This stretch of pristine shoreline offers many enjoyable activities.

Approximately six miles of beach provide all the sun, sand, sea and sky you can soak up in a day. Experience the ocean away from all the crowds. From the recreation area parking lot, an elevated boardwalk leads over the sand dunes to the beach, form where visitors can walk along one of the few remaining undeveloped stretches of shoreline on our southern coast.

Located on the southern tip of Pleasure Island near Wilmington, Fort Fisher lies between the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Cape Fear River on the west. Here are miles of white, sandy beach for sunning, swimming and fishing. The salt marsh, tidal creeks and mud flats form a natural outdoor laboratory exhibiting the wonders of a coastal environment. Beach wheel chairs are available for public use. They are located in the park office loaned out between 8:00am - 5:00pm.

History

Prior to European settlement, the Cape Fear American Indians, of the Siouan language group, lived in and around the lower Cape Fear peninsula; farming, fishing and hunting. Artifacts of the native culture, including pottery fragments, arrowheads and mounds of oyster shells, or midden piles, have been found in this area.

Early attempts at colonization in the area were unsuccessful, mainly due to conflicts with the Cape Fear American Indians. Pirating, common in the area during colonial times, also contributed to the struggles of early settlers. About 1730, further upstream along the Cape Fear River from Fort Fisher, the port of Wilmington was settled. Wilmington became a bustling port, particularly important for its exports of naval stores - tar, pitch and turpentine products derived from the resin of the longleaf pine.

During the Civil War, Fort Fisher, built in 1861, served to protect the valuable port of Wilmington from Union forces. By late 1864 , it was the last southern port open to trade. In this same year the first of two Union attacks on Fort Fisher took place. The fort held strong during the first battle and Union forces withdrew, but the Confederacy was not so lucky the second time.

In early 1865, a fleet of 56 ships bombarded the fort prior to a land assault by a force of more than 3,300 infantry. After a six-hour battle, Fort Fisher was captured and the Confederate supply line was broken. It was the largest land-sea battle fought in any war up to that time. The outcome contributed significantly to the outcome of the Civil War. Approximately three months after the fall of Fort Fisher, the Civil War came to an end.

In the late 19th century, a long rock jetty called "The Rocks" was built west of Fort Fisher to aid navigation by stopping shoaling in the Cape Fear River. Completed in 1881, The Rocks closed the former New Inlet, once used by Confederate blockade-runners to avoid the U.S. Navy, and created a lagoon, now called "The Basin". Today, The Rocks and The Basin are part of the Zeke's Island component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, and 1160-acre area of outstanding estuarine and ocean resources with extensive marshes and tidal flats.

The southern tip of New Hanover County became an island (now known as Pleasure Island) in 1929 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dreged Snow's Cut (named for Major William A. Snow, Chief Engineer for the Wilmington District). This cut is a canal that connects the Cape Fear River to Masonboro Sound and is now part of the Intercostals Waterway.

World War II caused huge economic and social changes in the Wilmington area as industrial development and shipyards boomed. Civilian workers and military personnel poured into the area during the war years, causing Wilmington's population to quadruple.

In late 1940, construction began on Camp Davis, located about 30 miles north of Wilmington. The base used five remote training sites along North Carolina's southern coast, and Fort Fisher became the primary firing range. The range stayed open until 1944, training many military personnel and aiding the war effort. A bunker still remains along the Basin Trail from the World War II base.

From 1955 to 1972, Robert E. Harrill, who became known as the Fort Fisher Hermit lived in the World War II bunker. He became a celebrity and philosopher of sorts, becoming known to the thousands of visitors who came to Fort Fisher during those years. Harrill relied on nature for much of his food, eating oysters, clams and fish as well as what he would grow. Over time, as his popularity and reputation grew, he also benefited from donations left by his many visitors.

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area was established as a unit of the North Carolina State Park system in 1986 when 287 acres were transferred from the Historic Site to the Division of Parks and Recreation. Today, Fort Fisher offers beach access, educational programming and many other amenities to hundreds of thousands of park visitors annually.

Direction

Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is located in New Hanover County five miles south of Carolina Beach.

  • From Raleigh, take Interstate 40 east. After approximately 122 miles, the interstate turns into NC 132. Continue south on NC 132, driving through Wilmington. US 421 joins NC 132; continue south on US 421. Follow US 421 through the towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.  Turn left into the state recreation area on Loggerhead Road.  Parking and the visitor's center are to the left. The recreation area may also be reached from Brunswick County via the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry, which crosses the Cape Fear River. After exiting the ferry, turn right onto Loggerhead Road. Parking and the visitor's center are to the left.

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