Zeke's Island Site Brochure
Zeke’s Island is located in the Cape Fear River basin and was one of the three original National Estuarine Research Reserve components dedicated by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Division of Coastal Management in 1985. The site is 22 miles south of Wilmington, bounded by Federal Point to the north, Smith Island to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Cape Fear River to the west.
The lagoon-like complex at the Zeke’s Island site is one of the most unusual areas of the North Carolina coast. The entire site is 1,635 acres and includes Zeke’s Island, North Island, No Name Island, a beach barrier spit and extensive fringing marshes and tidal flats.
While shoals and marshes have continued to appear and disappear within the Basin, Zeke’s, No Name, and North Islands have remained stable relative to the beach barrier spit, even though their shorelines periodically increase and erode. Zeke’s and No Name Islands have elevations of only a few feet, while North Island has several scattered dune systems, one of which reaches to twenty feet above sea level. The unusual characteristics of the site have created a variety of habitats, including tidal flats, salt marshes, shrub thicket, maritime forest, sand dunes, ocean beach, and the hard surface of the rocks. Beach amaranth has been found on the site’s foredune areas. Fish, shrimp, crabs, clams, and oysters use the estuary as a nursery ground. Both the Atlantic loggerhead and green sea turtles, federally protected threatened species, occasionally nest on the site’s open beaches. The expanse of intertidal flats in the Zeke’s Island vicinity is the single most important shorebird habitat in southeastern North Carolina. Dunlin, black-bellied plovers, short-billed dowitchers, white ibis, and great blue herons as well as black ducks, mallards, and pintails have been recorded there.
Checklist of the Fishes documented from the Zeke's Island and Masonboro Island components of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Getting to the site
U.S. 421 from Wilmington, which provides easy access to all of the recreational areas north of the site, ends at Federal Point – adjacent to the Zeke’s Island site. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission maintains a public boat ramp at the northern shore of the Basin. The New Hanover County Parks and Recreation Department maintains a pedestrian beach access facility and vehicular dune crossover on Federal Point. The entrance for these is on U.S. 421, just north of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Access within the Reserve is primarily by private boat while the barrier spit is accessible by foot or off-road vehicle.
The North Beach of the Basin is the primary educational area of the site. The barrier-spit portion of the Reserve is a popular spot for recreation. Groups should not use No Name Island because it is a marsh area without high ground. North Island is the largest and most ecologically diverse of the three main islands. The beach and shrub thicket habitats are least vulnerable to disturbance by visitors. Foot and vehicular traffic more easily disturb dunes. Groups may use the open tidal flats as long as they are not disturbed significantly. Walking trails into the Reserve are provided through a partnership with the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area