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Core Sound NC Shifting Boat Channels – Sandbar And Shoal Navigation

Our hope for this article is to become a community discussion using the no registration form at the bottom of this article and relating to rapidly changing boating channels, sandbars, and shoals generally in Core Sound NC from Harkers Island, to Cape Lookout, and extending up to the north Core Banks.

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Additional areas this article covers can be any waterways within the Core Sound where there is heavy recreational, ferry, and commercial boat travel, and can include The Straits, parts of Back Sound, Barden Inlet, Lookout Bight, “The Drain” and “S-curve”, and certainly waterways immediately off the south, middle, and north Core Banks.

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We hope discussions will focus on what’s causing the rapidly and seemingly ever changing boating channels and shifting sandbars and shoals along this portion of the NC coast, and how our community can begin to address these concerns for recreational and commercial boaters.

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shifting channel from hurricane and storm
Aerial Map View

Troubled Waters From Harkers Island, To Cape Lookout And North Core Banks

Statement: The triangle from Harkers Island, to Cape Lookout, up the Core Banks and back can be very treacherous for any boater not familar with the area, and new shoals and sandbars appearing can happen quickly, channels are constanly moving or narrowing, and where there was 5 feet of water at low tide today can change to 2 inches of water at low tide several weeks later. Weather related hurricanes and tropical storms, along with a lack of dredging greatly exacerbates these conditions.

Areas along Barden Inlet, the “S-Turn” and “The Drain” are notorious for rapidly changing conditions, but problems still exist for all waterways around Harkers Island, portions of Back Sound, and the many smaller islands and shoals immediately off the south, middle, and north banks.

Agencies, Funding, Management, Enforcement, and Legislation

In doing research for this article, it’s unclear to us which agencies are responsible for funding and managing operations in this area to assist boaters with navigation and clear markings of problematic areas and open channels, and who is responsible for dredging.

It’s clear the Coast Guard is responsible for enforcement, but it’s unclear what legislation is needed to fix this problem, or at least make it more manageable.

It’s unclear what different agencies are currently working on this issue, or which agencies need to work together on this issue.

When you factor in volatile seas which are natural around Cape Lookout, hurricanes and tropical storms, and increasing recreational boat traffic, the problem is even more problematic.

We do know that Barden Inlet was a federally funded project, but was recently abandoned and there are very significant problems for this once easily traveled route.


What very specific sandbar, shoal and boating channel problems exist for waters IMMEDIATELY around Harkers Island including The Straits? What are the fixes to these problems?

What specific problems exist immediately around Cape Lookout and Lookout Bight? What are the fixes for this area?

What fixes are needed for Barden Inlet, “The Drain”, and “S-turn” and did you support the Coast Guard removing markers for this once federally funded project?

As for waters IMMEDIATELY off the south, middle, and north Core Banks, what areas have significant issues for recreational and commercial boating interest? What are the fixes for this area?

What local, state, and federal agencies need to focus on this issue? How do we address shoaling, sandbar shifting, and channels disappearing or narrowing with the threat of more frequent and stronger hurricanes and tropical storms entering Core Sound?

What Is Dredging?

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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