NC Lighthouses History Discussions On Maritime Navigation For Coastal Visitors

This document is maintained for coastal visitors discussions on the history of the 7 lighthouses of NC and their importance for maritime navigation during colonial times and beyond. Readers are encouraged to share this document with friends and family on the popular social media sites like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter so others can join the conversation. Furthermore, please subscribe to notifications and use the discussion form below to add important facts, questions, and new information to this article.

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Information we hope to learn more about includes when each of these NC lighthouses were constructed, the history behind why Congress erected these structures in the first place, how ships, boats, and other vessels used these coastal lighthouses for navigation, when each was added to the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places, attacks on these structures during war, ongoing preservation efforts by local groups, maintenance of the structures, material used to build each structure, and the significance of their placement along the NC coast from Brunswick County to the Outer Banks.

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This section will be populated with particularly relevant discussions on the 7 NC lightouses history from the discussion form below.

Maritime Navigation

Prior to using modern navigation tools such as GPS and digital mapping, the history of the NC lighthouses is rooted in one simple concept, and that was to aide ship captains in navigating the treacherous waters between the gulf stream and land along the coast while dodging ever-changing shoals between the gulf stream and land formation. The importance of these structures is evidenced by the many documented shipwrecks along the NC coast in what is now referred to as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” by many historians and researchers.

In our current modern times, these structures are maintained by the U.S. National Parks Service to teach vacationers and travelers to the Brunswick and New Hanover County beaches, the Crystal Coast region in Carteret County, and the Outer Banks about our maritime history.

What are the names of the 7 lighthouses in North Carolina? 1) The Bald Head Island light “Old Baldy” and the 2) Oak Island light in Brunswick County, the 3) Cape Lookout light in Carteret County, the 4) Ocracoke light on Ocracoke Island in Hyde County, 5) Cape Hatteras light on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the 6) Bodie Island light near Nags Head in Dare County, and the 7) Currituck Beach light near Currituck in Currituck County.

Reader Discussions

Bald Head Island “Old Baldy”

First lit in 1817, the Bald Head Island lighthouse known as “Old Baldy” is still standing, but non-functioning. This structure was replaced by the Cape Fear light, and preservation efforts continue to this day. This structure has the designation of being the oldest lighthouse in NC.

For historical relevance and during times when “Old Baldy” was in service, what navigational importance did it serve and what wartime battles were fought near this structure? As a visitor in the past, does this place have tours and educational exhibits on the grounds where parks employees tell those on vacation about this place?

What documented shipwrecks are along this coastline?

Oak Island

The Oak Island NC lighthouse was first lit in 1958 and can be climbed using a series of ship ladders instead of the spiral staircases at other structures along the coast. This structure serves as an important history tourism landmark for people visiting Brunswick County.

This light is the southernmost structure along the NC coast.

What relevance did this structure serve during past wartime conflicts and during maritime navigation along waters of Brunswick County NC? What preservation efforts exist today? What information do you have on tours? What colonial shipwrecks dot the coast near Oak Island?

Cape Lookout

This structure was first built in 1812, but the existing structure was built in 1859 and is still functioning today. The only accessibility to this place is by private boat or passenger ferry boat. U.S. National Parks Service rangers are on hand to display exhibits and tours of this place, and it’s an important history tourism destination for those visiting Carteret County along the Crystal Coast.

What navigational aide efforts did this lighthouse provide during colonial navigation by ships and boats? What shipwrecks along this coastline add to the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” commonly referenced along the NC coastline?

Ocracoke Island

This structure was first lit in 1823 and is the oldest still functioning light on the coast. Additionally, it’s the only structure not available to climbing, but there are daily tours. And, there are a considerable number of colonial shipwrecks just offshore.

The Ocracoke light is only accessible by private boat or passenger ferry boat.

What does history teach about this location during wartime efforts and for navigational aid to ships during the early days of America?

Cape Hatteras

First lit in 1870 and still functioning today, the Cape Hatteras light underwent significant presevation efforts to maintain the structure. In 1999, 7 prominent historial structures and the lighthouse itself was relocated 2,900 feet inland to save this structure from collapse because of beach erosion.

The Cape Hatteras light has a very significant history for ship navigation around the Diamond Shoals, and this area has the highest concentration of shipwrecks along the NC coast.

The Cape Hatteras light is still functioning today and is a significant tourism center for people visiting the Outer Banks.

Discussions for this structure can center around preservation efforts, building materials, maintenance, and it’s importance to wartime navigation for ships in colonial days. Additionally, our readers are interested in hearing about the history of Diamond Shoals shipwrecks.

Bodie Island

First lit in 1872, this structure is still functioning today, has tours, and is climbable by people visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The Bodie Island light is located in Dare County near Nags Head on the Outer Banks and was renovated in 2013 to make the structure climbable.

Discussion information about this lighthouse can include the building materials used to construct this place, modern day preservation efforts, and the history of maritime navigation near Oregon Inlet.

What education exhibits and tours exist for the Bodie Island light?

Currituck Beach

First lit in 1875, this structure is still functioning and is designated as the last brick structure built on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The Currituck light is located in Currituck County and is the northernmost structure along the NC coast, is available for climbing, and has robust educational efforts to teach vacationers about the history of this place. Considerable preservation efforts to maintain this light is underway.

What significant importance does the Currituck light have for wartime maritime navigation?

Education Notice

All 7 of the lighthouses on the NC coast are listed in the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places.

Filed under NC history tourism.

Michael Sharp

Michael Sharp

Native of Carteret County NC, Father to Makayla and Savannah. You can add me on Facebook. Interest include web development, encryption, and other technologies.

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