Bodie Island Lighthouse – Not Your Typical Lighthouse Setting

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Bodie Island.

Three major islands and several smaller sandbar barriers, many connected by bridges, comprise the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These barrier islands protect the coastline from the Atlantic Ocean and attract thousands of tourists and summer vacationers annually. Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands are the largest. Bodie (pronounced bahd-ee, not bow-dee) Island, actually now a peninsula, features a lighthouse that continues to operate to this day.

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The lighthouse is the third to be built on the island. The first, built upon a poor foundation in 1847, was abandoned in 1859 after many expensive attempts to repair the poorly designed base structure. The second lighthouse was a casualty of the Civil War. Fearing its use by advancing Northern forces, the lighthouse was destroyed by Confederate forces in 1861 during the final acts of retreat. It was 1871 before construction began on a new lighthouse in a different location from the earlier two stations.

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The lighthouse appears at first glance to be in an unlikely location. As you drive the main highway south from the northern Outer Banks Islands, you pass a road sign pointing to a lighthouse that is inland. Then, after driving along a short tree-lined avenue, you will find yourself in the parking area of the Bodie Island Light Station. Part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the lighthouse is open to climb to the top through the summer until early October. As luck would have it, we arrived in late October, the stair to the top was closed for the season.


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Looking to the north, we could see a large marshy area and what appeared to be a wooden deck structure rising above the marsh. A wooden walkway leads from the parking area to an observation deck. From there we could see a large salt marsh. We were late enough in the year that mosquitos were not a problem for us, however what I found on the Internet about the area highly recommends bringing plenty of mosquito repellent.

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From the parking area, the deck rises above the marshland. It’s a short walk to the deck from where you can observe marsh wildlife. On the day we visited, we spotted only a single egret fishing at some distance from the deck. The photo below was taken at full zoom with my 18-300 mm lens.

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From the observation deck, it’s easy to see why this location works for the lighthouse. Even though you drive through an area of tall pines to get there, the low marshland doesn’t impede the gaze of the powerful lighthouse beam. We only had an overnight stay in the Outer Banks and Bodie Light Station would be our last stop before heading back to our home base near Chapel Hill. If you have more time in the Outer Banks area, be sure to check out some of the other lighthouses on the islands as well. As it turned out, much of the weather for us in North Carolina was cloudy. In fact, from mid-October to mid-December, most of the photos I am sharing reflect a cloud-filled sky. Even our latest Arizona excursion turned out to be on an overcast day. It seems that this fall, I am having trouble scheduling the sun with Mother Nature when we schedule our hotel stays.

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John Steiner

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