CROATAN NATIONAL FOREST--CEDAR POINT TIDELANDS TRAIL
by Jerry Lotterhos
The Croatan National Forest is a huge 160,000 acre forest and wetland area in eastern N.C.. It contains one of very few remaining pocosin wetlands. The Forest is home to most all species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians,fish, and coastal plants and trees that populate this area of the state. Its importance to the health of our coastal critters cannot be overstated, especially the impact of the large wetlands area represented. Wading birds are plentiful here and there are nesting areas for Common and Snowy Egrets, and Great Blue, Little Blue, and Tri-colored Herons.
The area boasts 43 miles of hiking trails including: Cedar Point Tidelands Trail(1.9 mi.), Island Creek Forest Walk(.5 mi.), Neuse River Trail(3mi.), Neusiak Trail(20 mi. and part of the N.C. Mountain to Sea Trail), Patsy Pond Trail(3.7 mi.), and Weetock Trail(11 mi.). For details about the Forest and locations of trailheads, check this link.
I am most familiar with the Cedar Point Tidelands Trail, having visited there many times. This 1.9 mile trail is interesting because it is built along and across coastal marsh and offers great views of the White Oak River near Swansboro, N.C. The trail also traverses upland pine forest along the eastern side. The wildlife here is varied. You can see wading and shorebirds, as well as a variety of woodpeckers and songbirds around the seasons. The only Painted Bunting that I have personally seen in N.C. was here. There was a nesting pair in 2011, but I never got a photo of them. There is an Osprey nest here near the campground. These guys have been nesting here for years and their nest used to be along the trail, but a storm in 2011 destroyed it. The trail is excellent, and that is a positive of course, but is also a negative if you are a serious birder/photographer. The beauty of the walk and great trail condition attract many runners, bikers, families, and casual observers. It gets crowded and the critters disappear!! Best time to go is winter, but still expect competition. If you go, check out breakfast at Yannas in nearby Swansboro.
CHECK OUT SLIDESHOW FOR PICS FROM HERE- CLICK ON PIC TO THE RIGHT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>