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Carolina Beach State Park

Flytrap Trail
Carolina Beach State Park is a 761-acre state park near Carolina Beach, 10 miles south of Wilmington on Pleasure Island in New Hanover County.  Pleasure Island is a small island formed by the dredging of Snow's Cut in the 1920s to provide passage between the Atlantic Ocean and Masonboro Sound.

The area was originally inhabited by Cape Fear Indians prior to their defeat by European settlers in the early 18th century.  The area grew in importance as the Cape Fear River was a major port of entry to the colonies and played a role in the US Civil War as confederate soldiers used the sugarloaf dune as a lookout to protect the Port of Wilmington.  The state park was established in 1969 to preserve the unique environment found here.  Specifically, the park is home to a large population of carnivorous plants, including the rare Venus Flytrap.

Contact Information:

1010 State Park Road
PO Box 475
Carolina Beach, NC 28428


Phone:
(910) 458-8206 (Park office)
(910) 458-7770 (Marina)

Email: carolina.beach@ncdenr.gov

GPS Coordinates: 34.04730, -77.90661

Directions:

From I-40 east, the interstate will become NC-132 continuing through Wilmington.  NC-132 joins NC-421 and crosses the Snow's Cut Bridge across the Intercoastal Waterway.  At the second stoplight, turn right onto Dow Road and follow the signs to the park's entrance, which will be on the right.

Map:

Trails:

Campground Trail:

Length: 1 mile
Blaze: Blue Circles
Difficulty: Easy

Campground Trail leads from the family campground towards the visitor center.  After crossing the main park road, the trail leads through a pine forest and meets up with Sugarloaf and then Swamp Trails and crosses the road near the Flytrap Trail parking.  Across the street, the trail ends at the campground entrance.

Flytrap Trail:

Length: 0.5 miles
Blaze: Orange Diamonds
Difficulty: Easy

Flytrap Trail is an easy half-mile loop, leading through an area where carnivorous plants are common, hence the name.  Going clockwise around the loop, the trail leads through a pine savanna.  Shortly after leaving the parking lot, a wooden observation deck provides a view of pitcher plants in a swampy area.  The trail continues through the savanna, looping around and crossing a boardwalk through a pocosin back to the parking lot.

Oak Toe Trail:

Length: 0.25 miles
Blaze: Blue Diamonds
Difficulty: Easy

Oak Toe Trail is a quarter-mile spur trail off Sugarloaf Trail about 0.25 miles north of Sugarloaf Dune.  The trail leads to Cape Fear River and follows the river up a ways to Marsh Overlook.

Sand Live Oak Trail:

Length: 1.5 miles
Blaze: Yellow-Green Diamonds
Difficulty: Easy

Sand Live Oak Trail is the newest in the park and forms a loop splitting off from Sugarloaf Trail near Sugarloaf Dune.  The trail runs through a dune forest and loops back around along Cape Fear River with several nice views of the river.  The ends right at Sugarloaf Dune.  Note that part of the trail runs through US Army property - stay on the trail at all times.

Sugarloaf Trail:

Length: 3 miles
Blaze: Orange Circles
Difficulty: Easy

Sugarloaf Trail starts at the marina and connects to the Flytrap Trail parking and then meets up with Campground and Swamp Trails.  After splitting back off, it passes by three limesink ponds.  The first is Grass Pond and is more grass than pond.  The second is Lily Pond, filled with water lilies.  The third is Cypress Pond, which is a small cypress swamp.  After the ponds, the trail passes the two intersections with Sand Live Oak Trail and then reaches Sugarloaf Dune.  Continuing past the dune, Oak Toe Trail splits to the left and then it meets back up with Swamp Trail and back to the marina.

Swamp Trail:

Length: 0.75 miles
Blaze: Red Circles
Difficulty: Easy

Swamp Trail splits off from Campground and Sugarloaf Trails near the Flytrap Trail parking and leads past the group campgrounds.  The trail makes a right turn and soon meets up with Sugarloaf Trail where left goes to Sugarloaf Dune.  Going straight, the combined trails head past a swamp and then Swamp Trail ends at the marina.

Points of Interest:

Limesink Ponds:

There are three unique limesink ponds in the park along Sugarloaf Trail, just a short ways past where it splits from Campground and Swamp Trails.  The first is Grass Pond - it was a little dry when we visited and was more grass than pond.

The second is Lily Pond, which as the name suggests, is filled with water lilies.

The last one is Cypress Pond, which is lined with cypress trees and seems more of a swamp than a pond.

Marsh Overlook:

Marsh Overlook is a wooden observation deck with views of Cape Fear River at the end of Oak Toe Trail.

Sugarloaf Dune:

Sugarloaf Dune is a 50-foot sand dune along the Cape Fear River.  It can be accessed from Sugarloaf Trail at the western intersection with Sand Live Oak Trail.

Wildlife:

Carnivorous Plants:

Carolina Beach State Park is home to a number of carnivorous plants, including the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) that is only native to an area within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington.  The "mouths" are actually modified leaves with trigger hairs that sense the presence of an insect and snap shut on their prey.


Another species of carnivorous plant native to the park is the yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava).  These plants attract insects to their pitcher, where they fall into digestive fluids to provide nitrogen in the nutrient-poor soil.

Trees:

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) thrives in the dry, sandy soil in the park.  The seedlings look more like a patch of grass than a tree.  As they develop and begin to grow vertically, a white tip, called a candle forms at the top of the needle clump.

Wildflowers:

Yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a twining vine that lives in the park and produces bright yellow flowers.

Blog Entries:

31-Mar-2018: Spring Beach Day

External Links:

NC State Parks website: https://www.ncparks.gov/carolina-beach-state-park