Visiting NC’s Outdoors by Wheelchair

Part IV the Coastal Plain
Jan. 10, 2013 @ 03:37 PM

It is a land that was once dominated by ancient animals, forests and seas.  In their wake they left a land of immense natural beauty and rich fertile soil.  Beginning east and next door to the states capital, the coastal plains is as diverse as it is large.  Not only is the land productive with plant growth but it also produces some of the largest populations of many species of wildlife as well.  This has resulted in the world’s record black bear coming from the region, along with the highest number of deer being harvested in a single county. 

This diverse land even becomes more so as it nears its coastal border.  Rivers become the nursery beds for both fresh and many saltwater fish alike.  Fossils as old as any on earth lie within man’s reach along river banks and forgotten bogs.  In a land crawling with water moccasins, alligators carnivorous plants, this fruitful land also creates many obstacles for those with mobility impairments.  While it is a land that is almost level and rich in plant and animal life, it is also a land that is dense with plant growth and never far away from water.  

These two combinations do make it inherently difficult for handicapped outdoorsmen to enjoy the great outdoors without some planning and knowledge of the awaiting obstacles.  Thanks to many state and local agencies, this access to the outdoors is more available than ever before.  In this last of the series on visiting the states outdoors by wheelchair, we will look at some of the accessible areas where the handicapped can enjoy some great fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.

While the vast number of state, county and city parks make it relatively easy for most people to get into some of the most beautiful and natural areas of the coastal plains, they are not all equal with regards to handicapped accessibility.  Clemmons Educational State Forest at Clayton and Turnbull Creek State Forest at Elizabethtown offers limited access to its many trails.  Jones Lake State Park at Elizabethtown provides a large fishing pier as well as special beach wheelchairs to access the lakes beach area.  Campsites and picnic areas are accessible as well.  Medoc Mountain State Park near Hollister offers some access to a great outdoor environment.  This is also the case for the Singletary Lake State Park near Elizabethtown as well.  Visitors to Lake Waccamaw State Park will have access to one of eastern United States geological mysteries, the Carolina bays.  The park has many unique natural features with a high degree of handicapped accessibility.  Overlooking the Cape Fear River is the Raven Rock State Park near Lillington.  The park does offer some accessible paths.  The Lumber River State Park near Orrum provides a wide array of opportunities to accessing the Lumber River.  Many opportunities and amenities are available for the handicapped to enjoy nature at this park.  At Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park near Scotland Neck, disabled nature lovers may experience the greatest bird watching trip of their lives.  Touted as the states only wheelchair-accessible tree house, the tree house provides a view of a swamp habitat from twenty feet above the surrounding ground.  The Cliffs of the Neuse State Park near Seven Springs offers limited accessibility for the handicapped. 

For the outdoors person that loves the sand, surf and sun of the state’s many beaches, a special beach wheelchair may just want they need.  According to the newly released handicapped access guide located at www.ncdhhs.gov/dvrs/pdf/ACCESS-NC.pdf many of these types of aids are made available for those that need them.  Carolina Beach State Park located at Carolina Beach provides many accessible features for the mobility impaired including fishing pier, boardwalk, bathhouse and campsites.   The Native Americans described the swamps on a hill with the word “Pocosin”.  At over 100,000 acres in size, the Pocosin Lake National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of opportunities for the outdoors minded including an accessible observation tower.  The Pettigrew State Park near Creswell provides some accessible amenities as well as access to Lake Phelps.  Labeled as a mixture of coastal pond and southern swamp, Merchants Pond State Park is truly an enchanting forest.  The park offers limited accessibility for the handicapped but for those that can access a canoe or kayak; a true adventure into the beauty of nature awaits them.

For those looking for handicapped access to one of the state’s many beaches, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.  The area offers ramps over sand dunes, accessible restrooms, and a public shower along with having beach wheelchairs available.  According to the Access Guide, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a broad expanse of wild lands and waters. A driving tour and trails offer many wildlife viewing opportunities. Black bear, deer, river otters, a variety of birds, reptiles, and amphibians are among the creatures seen by visitors.   During the winter, flocks of migratory birds provide an outstanding opportunity for birdwatchers.  The area also offers some limited hunting.  The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge near Manteo also provides trails that are accessible for the mobility impaired.

The NC Wildlife Resources Commission also provides two opportunities for mobility impaired hunters to still hunt for bear on the Gull Rock Game Lands in Hyde County.  In addition, special deer hunts are made available on Holly Shelter, Roanoke River, Suggs Mill Pond and White Oak River Game Lands. 

            Tony Robinson can be reached at decoydoc@charter.net