Doubling Cape Lookout

I’ll be in the Cape Lookout are in late July / August and am starting some trip planning.

I’ve read that windsurfers that want to windsurf on ocean waves will put in at Shell Point on Harkers Island, cross Core Sound to Iron Creek and then portaging across the Core Banks (about 200 yards) to get to the open ocean for wavesailing.

I’d like to use this approach to kayak around Cape Lookout starting and ending at Shell Point. If the waves on the Core Banks are setting to the SW, I’ll portage the Core Banks at Iron Creek, run down to the Cape, then return to Shell point via Barden Inlet. If the waves on the Core Banks are setting to the NE, I’ll run the route in reverse. If I run this route in reverse I’ll need to be able to locate Iron Creek from the ocean side of the Core Banks. Has anyone used Iron Creek as a portage location? Has anyone paddled around Cape Lookout?


haven’t tried that stunt but
be aware that there is lots of shallow water in the area, and acres of grassy marsh. Might want to go at high/rising tide. When I say shallow, I mean ankle deep or less.

CP Lookout
I agree with Dwight about the tides/shallow water and marshy/grass area. They do make for a long day of paddling if you’re going in the wrong direction. Another thing to worry about is the powercraft that run down past Cape Lookout into Barden Inlet and out to sea — they never, ever seem to slow down unless the USCG is in the area.

“Sea Kayaking the Carolinas”, Page 90, Jim Bannon mentions that “the currents around Cape Lookout are dangerous during even the best conditions. The remote, deserted location of most of S. Core Banks demands that extra precautions be taken.”

And you might want to checkout to request a free kayak trail map of that area produced by my kayak club.

Stay safe on the water,

NC Cal

I have the paddle trail maps, the 1:40k NOAA chart, plus the topo maps of the area. The NOAA chart lists a 1 ft depth at mean low water — basically, I’d be walking (or stuck in the mud).

So, has anyone out there gone around Cape Lookout? What route did you take?

Be very careful
We have a place at Harker’s Island and go down about every other weekend to kayak. First of all you’re talking about a very long trip. From Shell Point to lighthouse is about 4 miles via Barden Inlet; from lighthouse out around the hook to ocean and back to ocean side of lighthouse is probably six or seven miles at least in potentially very rough waters with rock jetties at certain points. If you are going to do this, I would go to lighthouse from Shell Point via Barden Inlet, then go around the hook into ocean and follow ocean side of Cape back to lighthouse, then a short carry back to lighthouse and then back up Barden Inlet to Shell Point. Lots of shoals in Barden Inlet at low tide but generally a very nice paddle if you stay close to channel but outside of boat traffic. At high tide you can paddle about anywhere you want to in Barden Inlet. This time of year prevailing winds are generally from south to southwest. I take it you are very experienced to do the ocean side of trip around the Cape and rock jetties. I wouldn’t think you would want to try this except on an extremely calm day. Eight mile trip from Shell Point to lighthouse and back is a great trip that can be done even when wind kicks up. Another good trip is starting at Shell Point and going around Harkers Island which is about 9.5 miles, and another good trip is going around Shackleford Banks via Beaufort Inlet and Barden Inlet which is about a 22 mile trip with 9 miles on the ocean side (be very careful going out Beaufort Inlet as very strong currents there; going into Barden Inlet at lighhouse from ocean generally not too bad as hook of Cape shelters this inlet. Lots of other good trips going from Shell Point north in Core Sound to Sea Level, Atlantic, and Cedar Island. Trip to Cedar Island Ferry which goes to Ocracoke from Shell Point is about 30 miles one way. Let me or Kudzu know about any other questions you have about paddling at Cape Lookout; we’ve done about everything you can do down there except your trip which may give you some indication about how careful you need to be; you may have more experience and better skills than we do; I would try your trip but only if weather conditions and wind were near perfect, and I wouldn’t do it on any kind of holiday weekend when you would have a lot of boat traffic. Have fun you’re in for some great paddling. rnr

I was thinking about responding to this post but you are much more qualified.

Remember when we went out Barden Inlet then carried the boats across Shackleford? Was there a landmark that you used? I was just following you! That would be a good suggestion, I think, for someone who wants to start and finish at Shell Point and get some ocean miles in. The only landmarks I remember were on the Back Sound side… the pony corral, shelter house with partiers, and the dock.

Good trip Kudzu
That’s another good trip I didn’t think of. Start at Shell Point and go down Barden Inlet 4 miles to lighthouse; go down ocean side of Shackleford Banks about 2 miles to pony corral and shelter (island too wide and marshy to get across anywhere before the shelter); short portage across Shackleford Banks at shelter; cross the sound about 3 miles back to Shell Point. This would be about a 9 mile trip. Winds are generally southerly and calmer in morning and pick up in afternoon so ride back from Shackleford Banks to Shell Point can be a lot of fun if you get a nice southerly blow. Nice if you can go to lighthouse while tide going out and will pull you down Barden Inlet to lighthouse and around corner of Shakleford Banks to shelter (two miles of ocean side of Shackleford Banks sheltered by hook of cape so generally not very rough surf), and tide generally not that much a factor after you portage across Shackleford Banks and go across sound to Shell Point except at very low tide lots of shoals and oyster beds to deal with in sound. This would be a great trip with lots of scenery and wild ponies (if it gets calm lots of mosquitoes will be after you on the portage)and would be much less hazardous than proposed trip around the ocean side of cape. I don’t know that I would want to try that trip before talking to someone whose been out there and still would need calm favorable winds to do it. I can’t think of anything scarier than to be going around the ocean side of the cape and have the winds or weather turn bad on you. rnr

Thanks for the info…
With prevailing winds from the SW-S-SE I’ll need to do the trip in a counter clockwise direction. The problem thus seems to be how to find the portage point.

Wind surfers to the rescue: I posted this question to a NC coastal wind surfing board and received the following response:

“Not being able to find Iron Creek is the reason I’ve never done a downwinder on the ocean side from the lighthouse, and I know the area very well. It’s almost impossible to spot - even from the tops of the dunes. The NPS has mile markers on the sand track that runs the length of Core Banks - Iron Creek is right near one of them, but I don’t remember which one it is and they are barely visible from the ocean. Another option is to do the portage at Codds Creek another couple miles north. You can identify it easily because there is a picnic shelter right at the dune line. It’s one of the few landmarks that I’m aware of. Also, Codd’s creek will be paddlable even at low tide. Iron creek can be about anke deep (or even mud flats) at low tide. Worst case, you can climb the dunes every once in a while until you’re opposite the Park Service headquarters on Harkers, and then drag the kayak west until you find water. The only real impediments are the greenheads, poison ivy, a maybe a little yucca.”

Crossing the Core Banks at Codds Creek adds about 2 nm to the trip — this does make it on the long side (about 18 nm total), but still doable.