14 Fun Facts About Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head NC

Sand Dunes in Nags Head, North Carolina

1.) Jockey’s Ridge State Park is completely free to visit. The park museum, boardwalk, and dunes are open to the public without requiring any payment for entry. Free is always better than not free.

2.) An extremely popular place to visit! Jockey’s Ridge State Park draws more than a million visitors a year, consistently making it the most popular state park in North Carolina. Not sure what else to do during your vacation? Check out our list of 28 things to do in Nags Head.

3.) Its tallest active sand dune system in the entire eastern United States. The State Park covers about 426 acres of the area!

4.) Jockey’s Ridge became the first state park in North Carolina to use a wind turbine. The 10 kW turbine offsets some of the power consumption used at the park offices.

5.) There’s a whole lot of sand that makes up Jockey’s Ridge. Scientists once estimated that there are about 30 million tons of sand within the dune system.

6.) Kitty Hawk Kites operates the largest hang gliding school in the world at Jockey’s Ridge. The company has taught over 300,000 people how to hang glide off the sand dunes since the school opened in 1974. Beginner lessons cost about $100 per person and are available year-round. Our best advice is to book early because spots fill up quickly, especially during the summertime!

7.) Speaking of hang gliding, Jockey’s Ridge is one of the very best places in the entire United States to learn how to hang glide. This is due to a number of factors including the area’s consistent wind and soft packed sand in case you lose control of your glider.

8.) There is actually a putt-putt golf course buried under the dunes! When driving past the dunes, you may notice the top of a castle sticking up out of the sand on the southern end of the dunes. Jockey’s Ridge Mini Golf opened in the 1970s and featured an 18 hole course, a giant cobra, an octopus, a castle (with fountain), and a pirate ship that functioned as the office and check-in building. When it seemed inevitable that the dunes were going to overtake the Nags Head attraction, the state purchased the course from the owner.

9.) You can slow the movement of the dunes, but you can’t stop them. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Department of Transportation filled dump trucks with sand in an effort to stop the roads, homes and putt-putt golf course from being overtaken by the dunes. Certainly, an expensive way to keep the dunes in check!

10.) Jockey’s Ridge was almost turned into a condo complex! In the summer of 1973, Carolista Baum stood in front of a bulldozer and forced the man driving the machine to halt progress on leveling the sand dunes. Two years later, the tallest natural sand dune on the East Coast became a state park. If Carolista hadn’t been so brave that summer, it's very likely that the most visited state park in North Carolina would not be here today.

11.) How was Jockey’s Ridge formed? Scientists believe hundreds of years ago hurricanes and other storms carried sand from offshore shoals inland. Northeast winds in the winter and southwest winds in the summer keep the dunes in place.

12.) An ideal spot to watch fireworks on Independence Day. When standing on top of the dunes, you’ll be able to not only view the fireworks display in Nags Head, you’ll also see part of the show in Kill Devil Hills and Manteo. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is open late on July 4th to accommodate visitors. If you do decide you want to view the fireworks at the State Park, try to arrive early to get a parking spot. If your rental home or condo is within walking distance of the dunes, we recommend walking. PLEASE be careful when crossing the bypass and/or NC 12.

13.) If you like snowboarding, you’ll love sandboarding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. And if you don’t like snowboarding, you might like sandboarding. Depending on the type of board that you have, you may or may not need a permit. Be sure to check with the park office for more information!

14.) Dogs are allowed at Jockey’s Ridge! This State Park is indeed pet-friendly. Dogs are not allowed inside the park buildings… and pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. If you’re visiting on a warm summer day, consider bringing a water bottle and bowl for your canine friend.

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