Old Baldy

After spending all day Tuesday driving home from New Jersey, we went with a group from our Del Webb community to Bald Head Island on Wednesday. Bald Head is a small barrier island about a 45 minute drive from Wilmington, NC and is accessible only by passenger ferry. Other than a few commercial vehicles, transportation is only by golf cart, bicycle, or foot. We took the 30 minute ferry ride to the island and then had a two hour guided history tour by golf cart.

The early history of Bald Head Island relates to its proximity to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the only river in the state that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently it was an important transportation link with the rest of the world. It made Wilmington the largest city in the state until other means of transportation became prevalent. Bald Head Island became home to three different lighthouses in an attempt to help ships avoid Frying Pan Shoals (also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic) near the river mouth. At low tide, it is possible to walk several thousand feet into the ocean with water only reaching your ankles.

The first light house was built on the river side of Bald Head and soon had to be torn down due to erosion from the river. The second light house was built further inland in 1817 to avoid erosion problems. It is still standing today as the oldest lighthouse in the state and is known affectionately as Old Baldy. Unfortunately, it was too low and it’s light was not bright enough to provide full protection from Frying Pan Shoals. Therefore, it had to be supplemented by a lighthouse boat to provide full protection.

The taller and brighter Cape Fear lighthouse was commissioned in 1903. Unfortunately, it was built of cast iron which quickly rusted in the salt air. It had to be torn down in 1958 for safety reasons. Old Baldy was decommissioned in 1959 and both were replaced with the Oak Island lighthouse, the newest lighthouse in the state.

Looking across the marsh at Old Baldy. If you look closely, the light on top is not centered. This is because a used replacement lens was installed that had to be placed off center to keep from blocking access to the light.
Old Baldy is no longer painted, so all the previous repairs can be seen. We climbed the 108 steps for the view from the top.
Unfortunately, you could not go outside at the top, so it was very hot and the pictures have some reflections from the glass. Still, if you love marshes as much as I do, it is hard to beat this view.
Looking toward the harbor area and ferry terminal.

The development of Bald Head Island began about 40 years ago under the direction of the man who invented fracking. While you may think fracking is not environmentally friendly, he did give a lot of consideration to the environment in the development. The development was planned at about 2000 home sites with the rest of the land given to the Bald Head Island Conservancy. Many property owners have deeded their land to the Conservancy, so at this time development is limited to about 1800 homes of which about 1200 have been built. The permanent population of the island is about 230. The houses are generally built in the woods rather than tearing down all the trees to make construction easier.

The harbor area.
The dunes are wide and natural.
These cabins are among the most popular on the island for their commanding view of the dunes and ocean. They were formerly used by the keepers of the third lighthouse.
The harbor and restaurant with Old Baldy in the background, You can clearly see the light is off center,

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Bald Head Island and are already talking about visiting it again as there is much more to explore.

5 thoughts on “Old Baldy”

    1. While we were homeless waiting for our house to be built, we stayed at a friends house near Oak Island. We spent a number of days on the beach at Oak Island while we were staying there.

  1. U guys look fantastic…and glad ur on the road again of adventures…thank u for sharing ur trip…hugs and luv sheila

  2. We always enjoy your postings. Love following along on your travels. You have so much history and interesting places to visit in the US. Glad to hear you are keeping well and staying healthy.

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