Rachel Carson Site Brochure
The Rachel Carson Reserve is home to a herd of wild horses. Learn more about these wild horses and the wild horses on Shackleford Banks of Cape Lookout National Seashore:
Frequently Asked Questions About the Local Wild Horses
Protecting Wild Horses and Public Safety – Tip and Fact Sheet
New! The 2013 Rachel Carson Reserve Bird Checklist
Location & Natural History
The Rachel Carson component is located near the mouth of the Newport River in southern Carteret County, directly across Taylor's Creek from the historic town of Beaufort. This site is a complex of islands: Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, and Horse Island. These islands are more than three miles long and less than a mile wide. Middle Marsh, separated from the rest of the site by the North River Channel, is almost two miles long and less than a mile wide. The entire Rachel Carson component is 2,315 acres. Acquisition of the area was completed in 1985, with the addition of Middle Marsh in 1989.
The islands and estuarine waters at the Rachel Carson site are strongly influenced by river and inlet dynamics and the twice-daily tides. Habitats found within the site include tidal flats, flooded salt marshes, ocean beach, subtidal soft bottoms, hard surfaces, dredge spoil areas, sand dunes, shrub thicket, and maritime forest. More than 200 species of birds have been observed at the site, which is located within the Atlantic Flyway. Twenty-three species are considered rare or decreasing in number. The site is an important feeding area for Wilson’s plovers in the summer and piping plovers in the winter. The shrub thicket of Middle Marsh supports an egret and heron rookery. In addition to feral horses, the river otter, gray fox, raccoon, and marsh rabbit inhabit the islands. The atlantic bottlenose dolphin swims in the deeper waters around the islands, along with 52 species of fish. Forty-seven invertebrate species common to the site include mollusks and worms.
Getting to the site
The Rachel Carson site is only accessible by private boat or passenger ferry. Motor boats can be launched from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission boating access area located at 2370 Lennoxville Road in Beaufort. Canoes and kayaks can be launched from designated areas along the Beaufort waterfront. Ferry services are located along the Beaufort waterfront. Visitors usually land near the trailhead at the west end of Town Marsh, the Carrot Island boardwalk, or Bird Shoal.
Visiting the site
Town Marsh, Carrot Island, and Bird Shoal receive the most use because of their easy access by boat. Marsh communities, like those of Horse Island and Middle Marsh, are quite vulnerable to effects of use, and should be avoided. Small groups may use selected areas on a limited basis for collecting and interpretive purposes if permission is received from the NCNERR. Special habitat areas, such as the horses’ watering holes and the shorebird nesting sites, are off limits to visitors.