Fort Fisher Daytrip Landscapes, Sunrise, and Wildlife

Day Trip to the Waters of Fort Fisher, North Carolina - February 20, 2016

Erosion Wall at Fort Fisher's "Battle Acre"

In the late 1950's and Early 1960's, My family had a small third row cottage (basically a fishing cabin) on River Road in Kure Beach just outside the gates of Fort Fisher. Dad was retired and mom had a sister in Wilmington and another sister that owned a cottage nearer to Carolina Beach. We spent many extended weekends at this cottage. I enjoyed fishing in the surf and on the pier and crabbing off of the "Rocks" at the end of Us 421. A friend usually came down with us and in warm weather we rented mats and played in the surf and roamed the beach. This is a short pictorial view of the area I enjoyed so much growing up.

Sunrise at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

Variations of Shutter Speed produced the different looks

Changing location provided different perspectives

Another Faster Shutter Speed (0.3 s)

Shutter speed varied from 0.3 seconds to 30 seconds

Another shot at faster shutter speed

Fort Fisher's "Battle Acre"

Previous sunrise shots are taken at what is known as "Battle Acre", location of the monument to this Civil War battle. Threatened by the ocean, the Army Corp of Engineers undertook the Fort Fisher Project which includes a 3,040-foot-long seawall consisting of 3-ton granite rock and 5-ton cast concrete Sta-pods™. The seawall protects the remaining earthworks of the historic Civil War fort. After the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completed their seawall project, the historic Fort Fisher seemed to be safe from the eroding sand dunes and encroaching ocean. This project began in 1995 and is expected to serve for about fifty years.
Coquina Limestone - The Weeping Rock at Fort Fisher

Shooting into the sun is never easy, but I thought this shot turned out well. The Coquina deposits just north of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area show better at near low tide. This shot was just as the tide began to go out. I thought the ocean looked like epoxy when the two parts are mixed together.

Coquina outcropping at Fort Fisher

Star News: By Staff Writer John DeSantis

They call it coquina, a variety of limestone common to Atlantic coastal areas. On the Cape Fear coast, the substance – used to build houses in St. Augustine, Fla., and once used here for foundations – is abundant below the waterline. At low tide, on the north end of Fort Fisher, the coquina formations can be seen easily. “In historic times, even into colonial times, they were mining this feature,” said Leland Smith, assistant manager of Fort Fisher Museum. “It was used at the Sedgley Abby plantation at Federal Point.” The rock was formed from combinations of stone and shell deposits. Geologists say it is soft when wet – or as soft as rock gets – and hardens up when dry. That’s why 300 years ago Spanish settlers used it for their homes, some of which still stand. The North Carolina formations are also visible on the banks of Snows Cut, again, when the tide is low. But at the Fort Fisher location, there is something extra-special about the coquina deposit. It weeps fresh water. When the rock is visible, water springs from within its layers. “It’s got a little salt in it because seawater washes through it, but the water definitely is sweet,” Smith said. “It’s not salt water; it’s fresh water coming out of it.”
At Low Tide

From the Geocache Description

Southeastern North Carolina is home to a unique geological formation and it is the only natural rocky shoreline in NC. The coast near Fort Fisher, is host to a hard rock outcropping of coquina rock that is rare and distinctive.
Views of the Ocean and the Coquina Limestone
Coquina is a sedimentary rock that is cemented together by seashells or coral, giving it a rough, gravelly look and feel. Because shells are made of calcium carbonate, coquina is formally a limestone. Coquina is the Spanish word for cockleshells or shellfish. Coquina forms near shore, where wave action is vigorous and sorts the sediments well. Notice that the pieces are all broken and rounded by the abrasion of the waves. Experts disagree on just how long ago the rock was created, but it’s a relatively young formation, with estimates of its origin ranging from 12,000 to 80,000 years ago. The rock was used in years past as a building material for homes and even forts, because it was good at absorbing cannon fire.
Low Tide Provides Better Exposure
The coquina outcrop extends out into the Atlantic ocean to the continental shelf. Islands such as Kure Beach, NC are constantly changing. Offshore currents carry sand away from one end of the island and deposit it at the other end, thereby changing the shape of the island. The coquina outcrop’s extension into the ocean acts as a natural jetty, which changes the way the sand moves.
The Tide Continues to Withdraw
This tidal zone is continually shaped by the actions of sun, wind, water, and rock. The rocky areas on the edge of the ocean that are filled with sea water at low tide create tide pools. The tide pools in the outcropping plays host to a large array of sea life, such as sea stars, horseshoe crabs, whelks, sea urchins, clams, conchs, and hermit crabs. Life is tough for plants and animals that live in tide pools. Here portions of the shoreline are regularly covered and uncovered by the advance and retreat of the tides. In order to survive, tide pool life forms must avoid being washed away by the tidal waves, keep from drying out in the sunlight of low tide, and avoid being eaten.
The Pools Provide a Home and Food
The tide pools are a unique and brutal habitat where the ocean meets the land. The sun bears down, heating exposed surfaces and organisms. Winds blow and contribute to the wave action, erosion, and drying of exposed plants and animals. Water in the form of waves endlessly pound at the rocks, constantly reshaping the coastline. Rocks are pounded by the waves and loose stones and sand grind into the shoreline.
Sanderlings Search for Food at Low Tide

This group of Sanderlings provided many photo opportunities while I watched.

The Waves Keep Them on the Run
Even a Little Sanderling is Tagged as Important
Waves Keep Them on the Move
The Rocks at the Basin at Fort Fisher

The Closing of New Inlet: Known as "The Rocks" 1870-1881

From the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society Newsletter by Sandy Jackson:

In 1870 the Corps of Engineers made a postwar survey of the Cape Fear River under Gen. J. H. Simpson. The results of Simpson’s survey supported closing New Inlet, south of Fort Fisher, prior to any dredging in the river, since sand washed in the inlet would quickly refill the channel. The River Improvements Act of July 11, 1870, appropriated funds for the Cape Fear improvements. General Simpson and Colonel Craighill of the US. Engineers devised a work at the New Inlet breaches to intercept the sand being washed into the river by the northeasterly gales and to then prevent the spilling of vast volumes of water through the breaches. The works were intended to close the small inlets contiguous to the main inlet, thus forcing the water into the main channel of the Cape Fear River and scouring the channel to a capacity to admit vessels.
Dunlins at Rest along with a American Oystercatcher and a Short-billed Dowitcher

Today there are arguments both for and against the removal of "The Rocks". The old structure is damaged by wind and storm and has been breached at several places. Some say the water quality would benefit and others argue the channel would be more difficult to maintain. It is a popular place for fishing and crabbing but is hazardous because of the slick growth on the wet rocks. It is a home for many birds to rest and feed. For a better description of the construction methods and efforts involved, click the link below.

American Oystercatcher
Willet and Rudy Turnstone
Fishermen Disturbed the Dunlins and Short-billed Dowitchers. The Remnants of "The Rocks" are in the Background

Day Trip Description

I didn't intend to portray the history of the fort and the battles that were fought there. There are some wonderful photos of the construction and the battle in various archives. For more information, click this link:

Along the Approach to "The Rocks"

I intended to show the area I knew growing up and to revisit some of my best memories as a child. The cottage is gone now, replaced with a three story home and the road to the river where we met shrimp boats and bought fresh right off of the boat is closed and inaccessible. The memories are still there though it was more than half century ago.

I'm sure everyone has a place and time that represents the same things for themselves.

Caught this fellow on my way back from the Coquina Outcroppings

I took the Fort Fisher-Southport Ferry across to Southport on the return trip and visited Southport and Oak Island. This is another favorite for me and I and my wife, cousins, and, of course, Amy spent many a wonderful week there on vacation and on adventure.

Southport Harbor
Places in Southport
Probably my Favorite of the Trip (a 15 s Exposure)
Another of My Favorites

Well that's it for this trip. Looking forward to going back when the weather is nicer. I enjoyed the day but the dull grey skies were difficult. Still, for me, I got some good images and had the enjoyment of making up this story.

The End
Created By
John German
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