Brief History of NC 12


Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is located between Oregon Inlet and the village of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is situated on a typical southeastern United States barrier island system with ocean beach, dune, brackish ponds, and marsh communities dissected by tidal creeks containing submerged aquatic vegetation. The refuge’s plant communities have been affected by human development activities over time. Some of these activities occurred before the Service established the refuge and some have occurred since. The most notable products of those activities today are artificial dunes, North Carolina Highway 12, the Marc Basnight (Oregon Inlet) Bridge, and three impoundments. Although natural dunes occur, the Civilian Conservation Corps first constructed some oceanfront dunes in the 1930's and, since then, agencies have vegetated and maintained them for various reasons. The primary reason for dune maintenance on the refuge today is protection of North Carolina Highway 12.   

Although a sand trail pre-dated the refuge, the state did not pave what is now North Carolina Highway 12 until the 1950's, and the state has relocated much of it westward since its initial construction. The Service constructed three man-made impoundments in the late 1950's and 1960's to enhance habitat quality for migratory waterfowl. The plant communities today reflect succession since the late 1930's, with some areas being subjected to ocean overwash, agricultural practices in the refuge’s early years, and prescribed fire. More recently, prescribed fire has substantially altered plant communities and successional stages on most of the refuge.

Get NCDOT travel information on Hwy 12 here:

Portions of NC 12 have been designated by the NCDOT to be part of the Scenic Byways roadway. Read about NC Scenic Byways, specifically page 155-160: