Beach Nourishment

As you may be aware, the Outer Banks is currently undergoing a beach nourishment project in the Towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills.  Below is an article describing what Beach Nourishment is and some of the benefits of this project.  For the most up to date information on the project including maps, photos, videos and more visit or visit the Beach Nourishment Page on the Atlantic Realty Website. 


What Is Beach Nourishment?

The Outer Banks is a unique, beautiful, and very fragile place. It’s one of the few beaches in the world created entirely from sand, with no natural rock formations to get in the way of your good time. However, this also means that the beach needs extra care. Without a solid foundation of rock to keep the beach in place, the sand does exactly what you expect sand to do, it slides back into the ocean the same way sand slides through to the bottom of an hourglass.

Manmade rock formations, jetties, and hard structures are not an option for our beaches.  They aren’t good for the environment in that they affect wave patterns and currents.  Not to mention, many people view them as unsightly.   Beach nourishment is the process where you take sand from further out into the ocean and pump it back on the beach to make it bigger.

Where Does The Sand Come From?

Introducing foreign sand from other areas would be an ecological disaster. This is why the best option is to use sand that comes from a few miles right off our own coast.  Special boats pump sand and seawater through a large pipe that sits on the beach. It gushes out onto the beach in sections of about 200-300 feet at a time.  Heavy equipment such as bulldozers then push the sand and flatten it on the beach. 

Not only is a lot of fun to watch, all that dredging brings forgotten beachcombing treasure to the surface, such as sea glass,  strange shells and fossilized sea creatures. When they did nourishment in Nags Head a few years ago, one lucky beachcomber even found a fossilized megalodon tooth.

How Long Does This Take?

Like any construction project on the beach, it depends a lot on the weather. Fortunately, the beach will only be closed in segments of about 1000 feet or so at a time for safety reasons. Since all OBX beaches are public beaches, you can just walk or drive over to another area and enjoy the beach the same way you always have.

Now, this schedule is always changing, so you’ll want to make sure to check out for the most up to date information.

What About Corolla and Nags Head?

Nags Head did their nourishment a few years ago, so they don’t need to do it this year. As for Corolla, it has a natural sand bar that keeps the worst of the waves away from the beach, keeping their beach nice and wide.  However, both of these Towns may revisit the Beach Nourishment project in the future. 

Will the beach near my vacation home be affected?

The beach will be closed in 1000 foot sections around where the equipment is working for your safety. Once you get bored with watching the nourishment in action, you can just head down the beach either by car or by foot, (or by cute street legal golf cart,) to 1001 feet and continue to enjoy the beach. It’s also a good opportunity to explore other beaches, such as the one by Jennette’s Pier, the beaches in Corolla, or even discover the joys of the sound. It is a big water playground after all. It’s also a great time to take advantage of your Fun N Sun pass to discover things you haven’t already seen and make some new memories.

Is It Going To Happen Again?

Yes. Just like the way you need to maintain important structures like roads, bridges, and even your home, beach nourishment needs to be done periodically in order to continue to be effective.  The good news is that with repeated nourishment, the newly deposited sand in the water will eventually create a protective sandbar, similar to the one in Corolla. Over time, this will widen our beach naturally and provide protection from storms. These are the cumulative effects of repeated nourishment.

Hidden Benefits of Beach Nourishment

When it’s all said and done, we’ll have a wider beach that blends in perfectly both in looks and environment with our existing beach. There are also a lot of hidden benefits that come with beach nourishment such as:

  • Beachcombers delight
  • Less damage from storms
  • Expanded habitats for wildlife
  • More beach to love (that one’s not so hidden, but it’s still great)

No Turtles Were Harmed in the Making Of This Beach

Here’s a fun fact; in addition to being the perfect time to nourish the beach, it’s also happens to be turtle nesting season. Fortunately, our tireless volunteers at NEST are taking care of the turtles during this time. Nests in affected areas are moved to non-affected ones.  Some higher risk nests are handed over to the aquarium so they can monitor and protect these nests. 

Thanks to the foresight of doing beach nourishment, you, your children, and even your future grandchildren can enjoy the Outer Banks for many decades to come.

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