Bays of Mystery

Carolina Bays provide one of the most intriguing geologic mysteries around.

Think about it. Not only are scientists still trying to determine how Carolina Bays were created, the exact number of Carolina Bays is also unknown.

Jerry Reynolds, the Carolina Bay expert with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, tells me he’s seen estimates ranging from 400,000 to 2.5 million bays in the Southeast United States. Bays can be found from Maryland to Georgia, but the majority of Bays are found in North and South Carolina.

No two bays are alike. Each has a unique combination of flora and fauna. While some are typical Pocosin habitats with boggy wetlands, others are filling with longleaf pine, grassy savannahs and cypress. Sadly, until the Bays are seen from the air, many people don’t know they are there.

The good news is some Carolina Bays are preserved. The Nature Conservancy protects several Carolina Bays in North Carolina, including Antioch Bay and Hamby’s Bay in Hoke County, and some of Stateline Prairie Bay and McIntosh Bay in Scotland County.

The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation protects several bays in the state park system, besides Lake Waccamaw, which you see in the video Carolina Bays. There are also Jones and Salters Lakes in Jones Lake State Park, White Lake in Bladen County and Singletary Lake within Bladen Lakes State Forest. 

But my favorite thing about Carolina Bays is the room to make up theories for how they came into being. Can you say aliens?

— Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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