Sandy Run Park in Kitty Hawk is a perfect example that great things do come in small packages. Tucked away on the Woods Road, it’s easily missed, or perhaps it goes unnoticed or unknown.
That’s too bad because Sandy Run may be the most beautiful small park on the Outer Banks and it is worth at least one visit for anyone spending time on this sandbar.
The park is only about 16 acres but contained in that 16 acres is open water, verdant wetlands, and a maritime forest. There is a very well-designed, easily navigated wooden walkway and dirt path that goes around the edge of the park that’s a little less than a half-mile long.
Just checking out who’s enjoying the park can be a delight in itself. There are dogs, children, strolling couples, small groups of friends, families…all of them seem to be filled with the joy of just being outside.
Sandy Run is a catch and release fishing site and there are almost always a few people fishing. There are also piers to launch kayaks, and as the town of Kitty Hawk notes, it is possible to paddle through the park, carefully portage across the Woods Road and Kitty Hawk Road and float down Sandy Run to Kitty Hawk Bay. It would be about a mile. A quick note on names—on some maps, Sandy Run is called Duck Pond Creek.
For parents with young children, one of the most fun things to do is to go on a turtle hunt, which in spring, summer or fall, or any warm day even in winter, isn’t really much of a hunt.
The turtles are everywhere—probably yellow sliders, although there may be other species mixed in. The turtles are in the water, so they can’t be disturbed, but there should be no problem spotting a few dozen of them.
One of the best places to see them is the south pavilion that also serves as a kayak launch pier. And some times a fishing spot. Turn right at the end of the short boardwalk leading from the parking area and the pavilion is right there.
If the turtles are hiding from view at the pavilion, head back to the boardwalk and turn right. Where the trees and vegetation give way to the open waters of the pond, look down, there are always turtles there.
Turtles are not the only species that makes Sandy Run its home. During late spring to early autumn, ospreys nest in the park. Listen and look carefully in the tree canopy where chickadees, sparrows, and wrens flit about. An occasional woodpecker will be drilling a tree looking for food. Squirrels make their home in the trees as well, but they tend to stay out of view, probably wary of all the dogs.
In the waters, an occasional muskrat can be seen. If not a muskrat it could be a nutria which is an introduced species native to South America that is similar to muskrat.
The path is a wonderful quick journey through maritime ecosystems.
The wetlands, marsh and open waters of the park team with migratory waterfowl in the fall. In the spring, spawning fish can be seen at various places in the ponds.
The woodlands are filled with native species of trees. And, a nice touch, Kitty Hawk has explanatory signs posted along the trail telling about the various trees and why the are important in the ecosystem.
At one time—about 100 years ago—a fairly large logging operation existed in Kitty Hawk. There is still some evidence of that. Look for the large, partially decayed tree trunks along the dirt portion of the trail. Those logs were clearly sawed-off larger tree, and the circumference of the trunk is significantly bigger than any of the surrounding trees.
Every season brings something new to see or experience in the park. Spring with its burst of life and vibrant colors; summer brings with it verdant life that is stunning; fall foliage is exquisite. And even in winter, a rare Outer Banks snowfalls turn Sandy Run into a winter wonderland.
Put Sandy Run on the list of must-do places to visit when spending time on the Outer Banks. It is that glorious a place.