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Adventure #2 - The Carolina Bays

This black and white photograph shows many large and small Carolina Bays.  Three of the Bays are lakes.  Many Carolina Bays have been drained for farming.  Their oval shape is still visible from the air.

Carolina Bays get their name from the shrubs called bays that grow in and around them.  This is a picture of Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), a common bay plant in North Carolina.

Photo courtesy of Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

This black and white aerial photograph shows two Carolina Bays in Bladen County, NC.  They are egg-shaped and point in a northwest-southeast direction.  There is a clear sand rim around the southeastern edge of each Bay.

What are the Carolina Bays?

Carolina Bays are shallow, oval  depressions.  They are found throughout the east coast of the United States, from Florida to Delaware.  The most Bays are found in southeastern North Carolina, South Carolina, and northeastern Georgia.  There are about 40,000 Carolina Bays.  The smallest are less than 1 acre and the largest are over 5,000 acres.  Even the largest Bays are very shallow.  They are only 8 to 12 feet deep.  The largest Bays are lakes, while smaller Bays hold less water.  They are usually wetlands.

All Carolina Bays are the same shape and point in the same direction.  They are oval, or egg-shaped.  They are longer in one direction than they are in the other.  The long side of a Carolina Bay always points from southeast to northwest.  A rim of white sand, surrounds most Bays.  The rim is largest on the southeast side of the Bay.

No one knows what Carolina Bays really are or how they were formed.  They were first discovered in the 1930’s.  This is when the first photographs were taken from airplanes.  These photographs gave people a “bird’s eye view.”  They helped them see the landscape in a new way.


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