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Bodie Island Light Station

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Nags Head, Dare Co., North Carolina (March 2012)

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Nags Head Lighthouse

Bodie Island Light Station

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The lighthouse on Bodie Island (originally pronounced "Body" after an early family of the same name) doesn't have quite the same level of fame or recognition as its cousin on Cape Hatteras but it's certainly no less important. All of the lights along North Carolina's Outer Banks, the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" unquestionably saved numerous lives adjacent to this treacherous stretch of coastline. The Bodie Island light station was designed to fill a gap between Hatteras and Currituck.

This is an easy lighthouse to visit, just a few miles south of Nags Head before the Oregon Inlet bridge. It's a National Park Service property and fully open to the public. A road winds through pine forest after one turns off from busy Route 12. One cannot observe the encroachment of civilization once entering the grounds even though vacation homes and businesses sprawl across the terrain just a little further north. The site lines have been perfectly preserved by parkland. Visitors can almost feel like they've been transported back to the Nineteenth Century as long as they overlook the automobiles in the parking lot. The grounds includes a boardwalk leading from the lighthouse to an observation platform a quarter-mile or so into the tidal marshes. It's an easy stroll and from there one can appreciate Light Station from a completely different perspective. The photograph, above, was taken from that platform. Notice the walkway to the left, and then of course the lighthouse itself as well as various outbuildings that complete the light station.


North Carolina Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is an impressive conical masonry structure climbing 170 feet, with a 156 foot focal plane. It is painted with distinctive black-and-white bands, with a black tower. The light at Bodie Island continues to serve as an active navigational aid. Interestingly, the tower contains its original first-order Fresnel lens (which is a particularly large one). These have been relegated to museums in many instances elsewhere, replaced with modern optics for most light stations that continue to serve as active navigational aids. It's quite unusual to have an original lens in place that continues to serve its original function.

This incarnation of the lighthouse, the third at this spot, dates to 1872. A previous one was destroyed by Confederate troops during the Civil War to make it more difficult and dangerous for the Union Navy plying waters just off the coast. The current lighthouse fared considerably better, finally electrified in 1932 and fully automated in 1940. Ultimately it transferred from the Coast Guard to the National Park Service in 2003. It has been undergoing a restoration in recent years although work had been suspended during the time of our visit due to lack of funds. That's a primary reason why the tower is not open to the public. It's simply not safe in its current condition. However, one can certainly wander the grounds and appreciate its beauty from the outside


Bodie Island

Lighthouse Keepers Quarters

The Keepers Quarters dates from the same time period. It's been restored and is in considerably better shape. The brick building was designed as a duplex originally but it's been converted into a visitors center on the first floor and park offices on the second floor. The visitors center includes a small exhibit area along with a bookstore that offers the typical fare one would expect from a Park Service facility. Other structures on the grounds include a cistern, an oil house and a storage building.


Readers who have an interest in lighthouses might also want to check my Lighthouse Index page.