The Wild Horses of Shackleford Banks

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 Shackleford Banks is the southernmost island along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina and it is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The island is home to about 140 feral horses.


These horses are descended from Spanish Mustangs and swam to the island after surviving a shipwreck when the Spanish came to the Americas. The National Parks service closely monitors the horses so we can learn how they lived before human domestication. If you look closely you will see some of the horses have been marked by the scientists.

You can reach the island by passenger ferry or boat and spend the day observing these beautiful creatures and walking along the shore hunting for shells. Here is the pier used by the National Parks Service when they come to the island.
Stay along the trails. The grass that grows here keeps the horses fed and hydrated but foot traffic can damage the precious resource. Tiny cacti grow in the brush and while the cacti are small in nature, the thorns are over an inch long and really hurt when they stick you (I should know because I got some stuck in my leg!).
Near the ferry drop-off zone is a large tide pool which was about thigh deep in its deepest parts. Small schools of fish and turtles can by seen swimming in the giant pool. We waded right across it to the other side and found this rocky area.
Keep your eyes open as you walk along the trails. I almost bumped into this horse hiding in the shadows because I was busy looking out for the stinky piles left by the horses!
Remember to keep a safe distance. These are feral animals and they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. A distance of 50ft is required by law.

Bring a bag to keep your treasures in. We found countless shells right where the waves hit the sand. There are plenty of conch shells here too!


Make sure you bring plenty of water and sunblock. We walked around for about 4 hours and our water bottles definitely came in handy. 


The eastern tip of the island is where the majority of visitors will explore, so feel free to venture a little farther if you want to avoid crowds.













If you're taking the ferry, remember that it arrives at the drop-off zone every hour and they will let you squeeze on an earlier ride if they have the space available.













The photos here do not do this little slice of heaven any justice so I suggest packing a lunch and checking it out yourself!
-Alecia

P.S. Thanks to my friend Beth for joining me!

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