Hatteras Island, North Carolina
Forests are rare on the Outer Banks, where wind and salt spray reign. But at Buxton the island broadens to nearly four miles, and the distance from the ocean and higher elevations combines to create an example of ecological interdependence. Here in the 968-acre forest, stunted trees form a protective canopy over the undergrowth, and this low foliage in turn stabilizes the soil the trees need.
The three-quarter-mile loop of the self-guiding Buxton Woods Nature Trail offers an introduction to this symbiotic environment and its various inhabitants, many seldom found elsewhere on the islands.
Woodland songbirds and wetland egrets, herons, and grebes make the forest and adjoining marsh their home. Ospreys may be seen overhead, and in spring and fall the area is visited by migratory birds. Mammals, generally rare on the Outer Banks, live here, too, including raccoons, otters, minks, nutrias, and white-tailed deer.