Nags Head Woods from the Visitor's Center.

Nags Head Woods is one of the most beautiful places on the Outer Banks. Part of the Nature Conservancy, the preserve is 1110 acres of heavily wooded hills, marsh, fresh water ponds and deep ravines. The hills are actually relict sand dunes formed 20,000 years ago. Because they have been in place for so long, soil has accumulated on the them and hardwood trees dominate the top half of the hills.

The trails on the south side of the park are remarkably steep and hiking along them, surrounded by hickory and oak trees it’s hard to imagine the ocean is just half a mile away.

Fire damaged the preserve this past week. More than 240 acres on the northwest side of the Nags Head Woods was in flames on Monday and Tuesday. Investigators have determined that the fire was manmade, although they have not determined if it was a careless action or intentional.

The fire burned to Nags Head Woods Road, a dirt road that divides the park. Visually it appears as though the first growth trees that fill the landscape escaped damage although it is apparent the undergrowth was burned out. The base of the trunks of the trees was often blackened, but the canopy appears to be showing a healthy springtime growth.

The fire overshadowed other news coming out of the preserve. After more than 30 years the visitor’s center is going to get a much needed upgrade that will include restrooms and handicap access.