Let no one fool you…one of the most astounding sites on the East Coast is not found in Dry Tortugas or the mountains of Acadia. Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head is a true sight to behold. The beauty of Jockey’s Ridge is within its ever changing nature. No matter how many times you go, it will never be the same.
This state park offers the distinction of always being in motion. The height of the dunes varies between 80 and 120 feet, depending on the season. The weather patterns monitor the apex of the park. Depending on the prevailing winds, the height is pushed from mound to mound.
The sand of Jockeys Ridge is mostly made up of Quartz. The shifting sand without any vegetation is known as a Medaño. As the sand shifts into peaks and valleys, vegetation takes hold and begins to shape the natural contour of the park.
The valleys along the park provide places for rainwater to collect and form fresh water pools. The fresh water pools provide much-needed relief for the inhabitants of the park.
The legend of Jockey’s Ridge holds that locals would jockey nags along the dunes strapped with lanterns to lure in passing ships. Whether this is fact or legend is irrelevant. Everyone should take a day of their life to watch the sunrise on the Atlantic and set over the Roanoke Sound.
If not, you missed out! The North Carolina Park Service lists the wildlife as follows: visitors will not encounter many animals on the ridge, early morning hikers will often see tracks that rabbits, foxes, lizards and other animals have left in the sand during the night. Heavy rains form temporary pools in the lower level of the dunes.
These pools serve as a source of water for raccoons, opossums, mice and muskrats. Bird life is abundant in late summer and fall when large numbers of migrating birds travel southward. Warblers, sparrows, flycatchers and other species may be seen in the shrub thickets.
The sound-side of Jockey’s Ridge is home to a variety of waterfowl in the winter which makes for great winter sounds and scenery. No matter what season you visit, you won’t be disappointed.