Shoaling of Swansboro’s West Channel

Once the Longleaf forests lost their economic value as a source for Naval Stores they were clear cut.  Very little of the virgin Longleaf forests remains.  The Longleaf ecosystem of trees neatly spaced on a grass savanna stretched from Virginia all the way to Texas. There an old picture in one of Jack Dudley’s books that shows Dr. Sharpes house on the Hammock.  There is one tree in the photo, an old live oak, everything else is fields…the sandy soils in the Swansboro area erode rapidly.   An indicator of the impact of deforestation and subsequent silting in of waterways can be found in  The Annual Reports of the War Department…1897

“A steamboat to draw 8 feet is being built at t e Swansboro Lumber Company’s mill for carrying the product of the mill to Northern markets. There are two routes from Swansboro to the inlet. One, the western or old ship channel, has now 5 feet at high water and is not much used at present. It is claimed that over twenty years ago vessels drawing 10 and 12 feet used it freely. The other, the eastern channel, carries 5.8 feet at high water and is used by the lighters generally and by the steamboats and sharpies going up Bogne Sound. The cause 0f the deterioration of the western channel is a shoal which has made out from the southWest point of Dudleys Island marsh and now extends across the channel. The depth of water in sloughs over it varies from 2 feet at times to 7 feet. There was 5 feet at time of examination. The object of the Swansboro Lumber Company in applying for an examination was the removal of this shoal, which at time of a publication was thought to be the only one having less than 8 feet at high water from the ocean to Swansboro.”

Swansboro Lumber Company around 1900

The photo above shows the view looking from the top of the hill down on the Swansboro Lumber Company near where Spring Street is today…it was a corn field in around 1900.  Navigation was already difficult in Eastern North Carolina but deforestation subsequent cultivation of sandy hills and resulting erosion made ports like Swansboro impassible except for sailing sharpies and other very shallow draft vessels.

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