North Carolina’s more than 40 state parks are sharing a centennial anniversary with the National Park system this year, all offering an enormous amount of biodiversity and geographical features to explore.
The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE’s) world headquarters and home campus is located in Eastern North Carolina, which has amazing biodiversity of its own, many times overshadowed by the mountains, geological features, history and one-of-a-kind elements.
Two parks that are near our campus are Carolina Beach and Lake Waccamaw State Parks. Carolina Beach State Park has the distinction of being the home of the unique — and carnivorous —Venus fly trap plant. Students on NCOAE select courses have the opportunity to search for Venus fly traps while on sandy trails, shaded by towering pines and other trees dripping with Spanish moss. The Carolina Beach area is one of the few places in the world to give you such an opportunity.
The park also offers access to many islands in the Cape Fear River. These islands provide great opportunities for our students as well as affording them a large area in which to practice open water sea kayaking skills. As a bonus, the waters surrounding the park support an active dolphin population.
Another of the state parks in the area is Lake Waccamaw, which is part of the Carolina Bay system. These bays are a geological mystery that are home to freshwater species that exist nowhere else on the planet. The lake is 9,000 acres with 14 miles of shoreline. And while it’s the third-largest lake in the state, average depth is only 7.5 feet.
While exploring the trail by land or water, visitors can witness snakes sunning themselves in the low cedar trees growing along the shoreline. Other residents of the area include alligators floating in the tea-colored water, just waiting for unsuspecting prey to mistake them for logs.
Due to its location, our campus offers students the opportunity to experience wild lands in relative solitude while also being exposed to plant and animals that only exist in eastern North Carolina. We are honored to be able to offer course and instruction in such a wild and beautiful part of the world.
Both Lake Waccamaw and Carolina Beach State Park will be holding centennial celebrations on May 14, 2016.
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About the Author: Stephen Mullaney is the staff development director at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) in Wilmington, N.C., where he is responsible for the training and education of NCOAE’s field instructors. He is a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and has taught within the Durham, N.C., public school system. Stephen received his undergraduate degree in English from Framingham State University, and an Independent, alternative Masters in Education.