Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area

Amid the development and traffic on Bogue Banks, between the Atlantic Ocean
and Bogue Sound, there sits an undisturbed 273 acre site that is to be kept in “its natural
state”. Literally millions of people drive by this site every year and hundreds of
thousands visit it but only handfuls are aware of it. Where is it? It is the Theodore
Roosevelt State Natural Area, located in Pine Knoll Shores and it is surrounding the
North Carolina Aquarium. What is it? It is a home to eight different natural communities,
including the maritime forest, Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area is truly a treasure
for visitors to enjoy.
The land was part of a larger tract that that extended from the Town of Atlantic
Beach to one mile west of Salter Path and owned by Mrs. Alice Grene Hoffman. Prior her
death in March of 1953, she left the property to her niece Eleanor, wife of Theodore
Roosevelt Jr. and their children. In December of 1971, 298 acres were given to the State
of North Carolina by the grandchildren of President Theodore Roosevelt. The deed of gift
stipulated that the tract of land and its adjacent marshes be “kept in its natural state,
maintained as a nature preserve, and used for the primary purpose of nature and wildlife
education, estuarine studies, with emphasis on marine life, ecological advances,
environmental balance and research in the methods of conservation” The exception of
the requirement allowed for 25.04 acres to be used as a Marine Resource Center which is
now the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
Managed by the North Carolina Division of Park and Recreation, Theodore
Roosevelt is one of 16 State Natural Areas encompassing 27,643 acres. Rangers from
Fort Macon State Park patrol the area, document plant and animal life, and with the help
of Aquarium staff, maintain the two nature trails. Both trails follow along ancient dune
ridges and wind through a landscape that is quickly disappearing along our coast. The
Roosevelt trial is 1.2 miles long will take about an hour to hike. The trailhead is located
off the western end of the Aquarium parking lot. The Hoffman trail, accessed through the
Aquarium, is one half mile long and takes 30 minutes to hike.
The assorted natural communities in a location that is comparatively small to
other state natural areas is remarkable. They include maritime forest, maritime shrub,
brackish marsh, and salt marsh. In areas between the forested dunes, visitors can
experience maritime swamp forest, interdune ponds, small depression ponds and
maritime shrub swamps. Many species of plants and animals can be seen in their native
habitats. Live oak, laurel oak, holly, cedar and pine make up the majority of the forest
canopy while shrub thickets consist of wax myrtle, red bay, and wild olive. Salt marsh
cord grass and needle rush can be found along the shallow shores of Bouge Sound. Birds,
mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and marine life call these areas home which makes for a
great opportunity to view wildlife.
If you visit, please observe the trail head signs which are posted and tread lightly.
We benefit today from the decisions of a few to preserve this property. And, it will be
here for future generations too. Take some time to explore Theodore Roosevelt State
Natural Area; you’ll be glad you did.