Laws & Policies

Laws are created by the Congress of the United States of America and establish the highest order of legal authority over national parks.

  • The 1916 "Organic Act" created the National Park Service and affect all areas managed by the National Park Service.
  • The 1937 enabling legislation of Cape Hatteras National Seashore provides specific instructions and guidance on how this park must be managed.

Service-wide policies for the National Park Service are developed by the Office of Policy with public input and in accordance with applicable laws. Policies dictate many of the overall directions and procedures used by all parks.

Enabling Legislation

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was designated by the 75th Congress in 1937. Here is an excerpt of the enabling legislation that covers the reason for establishing this national park.

Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area...

(Aug. 17, 1937, ch. 687, Sec. 4, 50 Stat. 670; June 29, 1940, ch. 459, Sec. 1, 54 Stat. 702; Mar. 6, 1946, ch. 50, 60 Stat. 32.)

Park Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations 36 CFR parts 1-199 and the Park Compendium provide a complete listing of park rules and regulations. These most specific rules are developed with public input to implement applicable law.

2014 Superintendent's Compendium

COMPENDIUM of designated closures, permit requirements, and other restrictions imposed under the discretionary authority of the Superintendent of the Outer Banks Group.

Under the provisions of 16 United States Code, Section 3, Title 36, United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter 1, Parts 1-7, the following Superintendent's Orders (COMPENDIUM) are established for Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Unless otherwise noted, these orders apply in addition to the provisions contained in Parts 1-7 of Title 36 CFR.


Section 1.5 - Closures and Public Use Limits.

1.5(a)(1) Posted bird nest areas are closed to all public use and entry. Posted turtle nest areas are closed to all public use and entry, including commercial fishing vehicles. Pedestrians are allowed to walk on the beach directly in front of turtle nest closures below the current high tide line. Posted Sea Beach Amaranth sites are closed to public use and entry.

Justification: Bird nesting areas are marked and posted against entry during the nesting period to prevent the loss of eggs and chicks through disturbance or destruction by vehicles, persons, or their pets. Visitors entering a nesting area cause parent birds to leave their nests in an attempt to frighten away intruders. If not protected by parents, fertile eggs and forming chicks are vulnerable to predation and/or exposed to the direct rays of the sun, and can be quickly injured or killed. During the migration season, areas are closed to provide undisturbed feeding and resting sites for shorebirds.

Known turtle nest areas are closed to all entry for a period of time before and after the projected hatch date of the eggs. This is to (1) prevent vehicles from driving over any emerging hatchlings and (2) prevent the formation of vehicle ruts which trap hatchlings. Pedestrian activities are restricted from the upper sections of the beach in order to prevent egg loss from exposure or penetration (e.g., holes dug in the sand, erection of shade structures, volley-ball nets).

Sea Beach Amaranth, a federally protected species, needs to be protected until its annual cycle is complete and seeds are produced.

1.5(a)(1) No operation preparatory to, during, and subsequent to the taking of fish by any means if the primary purpose of the taking is to sell fish may originate from, be conducted on, or terminate on the beach bordering the "Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond."

Justification: Geological processes have created a pond-like enclosure (hereinafter referred to as Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond) on the southern extremity of Bodie Island. The waters of the Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond typically are much calmer than the nearby Atlantic Ocean and, on occasion, are populated by large numbers of fish. When this occurs, fishermen can catch or harvest the fish with much less effort or skill than would be required on the beach front. In the past, sport fishermen have complained that activities of commercial fishermen in this area, interferes with recreational use of the Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond.

In a public workshop held by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Manteo, North Carolina, on January 5, 1993, representatives of both sport and commercial interests agreed that as the Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond is particularly suited to recreational fishing, commercial fishing in the Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond should be eliminated. As the Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond is a temporary geographic feature, subject to daily change by wind and wave action, or becoming sand filled by a moderate storm with the right combination of wind and surf conditions, the Superintendent believes Title 36, United States Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1.5, Closures and Public Use Limits is the proper vehicle to close the Pond to commercial fishing. On February 16 a second workshop group, also consisting of representatives of both sport and commercial interests, agreed to the restrictions imposed by this compendium regulation. Enhancement of Recreational Fishing: Cape Hatteras National Seashore was authorized by Congressional Act, H.R. 7022 on August 17, 1937, (50 Stat. 669). This Act provides that "... the legal residents of villages referred to in section 1 of this Act shall have the right to earn a livelihood by fishing within the boundaries to be designated by the Secretary of the Interior, subject to such rules and regulations as the said Secretary may deem necessary in order to protect the area for recreational use as provided for in this Act."

1.5(a)(1) Personal watercraft launching or landing on any lands or boat ramps within the boundaries of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is prohibited. Personal watercraft may not be towed on trailers or transported on Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Routes within the boundaries. Personal watercraft operation on waters within the boundaries of the Seashore is prohibited. This prohibition does not apply to personal watercraft operated by duly authorized federal, state, or local law enforcement and emergency response agencies whose jurisdictions lie within or adjoin Cape Hatteras National Seashore boundaries and when engaged in training, enforcement or search and rescue activities.

Justification: Personal watercraft operation poses considerable threats to estuarine flora and fauna, pollutes waters essential to commercial and recreational fishing in the park, pose unacceptable risk of injury to operators and bystanders, and conflicts with the majority of other longstanding uses of the Seashore. Personal watercraft use is an inappropriate use of the Seashore since noise generated by personal watercraft is an intrusion that is inconsistent with the “primitive wilderness” intent of the Seashore’s enabling legislation, and is not authorized in Section 3.9.

1.5(a)(1) All vehicles parking at the Whalebone Information Center are required to park in designated parking spaces on the paved surface.

Justification: Whalebone Information Center was established in order to provide information to the visiting public. In recent years, the area has, on an increasing basis, become used as a commuter “Park and Ride” facility with an increasing number of vehicles being parked and left all day. Earlier attempts to limit this practice and prevent commuter vehicles from using all the spaces for short- term visitors has resulted in large numbers of vehicles parking on the grass, denuding the area, and preventing mowing and other required grounds maintenance. Overnight parking is not authorized.

1.5(a)(1) The mooring of a boat for more than 14 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day at the docks at Silver Lake Marina, Ocracoke is prohibited.

Justification: Limiting boat mooring to 14 days at Silver Lake Marina during the heavy visitor use season provides more boaters the opportunity to utilize the limited available space. The small Silver Lake Harbor receives many private and commercial boaters during a season, many of whom would like to use this facility for a month or more at a time. In addition, local residents like the convenience of leaving their boat moored throughout the summer. Limiting the length of stay, offers most visitors an opportunity to use the facilities.

1.5(a)(1) Silver Lake Dock quiet hours are from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am.

Justification: Silver Lake Marina quiet hours are from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am, in accordance with local community quiet hours.

1.5(a)(1) Parking at the Ocracoke boat ramp parking lot is limited to 72 hours after which all vehicles (including boat trailers, recreational vehicles, etc.) must be removed for at least 24 hours.

Justification: Limiting parking at the Ocracoke boat ramp parking lot will allow more park visitors an opportunity to use these limited facilities.

1.5(a)(1) Public use and entry into the enclosed horse pasture on Ocracoke Island is prohibited.

Justification: The prohibition of entry into the horse pasture is necessary to prevent injury to visitors and horses.

1.5(a)(1) Aircraft may not park at Billy Mitchell or Ocracoke Airstrip for more than a 14-day period unless authorized by the respective District Ranger or through a park issued Commercial Authorization or Special Use Permit.

Justification: Allows for other visitors to experience the Seashore.

1.5(a)(1) All aircraft parked on airfield must be fully functional.

Justification: In the event an aircraft becomes inoperable and needs emergency repairs which require that the aircraft remain at the airstrip for more than the 14 days, permission must be granted by the respective District Ranger or through a park issued Commercial Authorization or a Special Use Permit. If permission is not obtained, aircraft will be removed at owner’s expense.

1.5(a)(1) Unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians are not permitted on the airstrip tarmac or runways. An access permit is available from the respective District Ranger to allow vehicle access to the airstrip tarmac, for emergency repairs and immediate loading and unloading only.

Justification: Prohibiting vehicles and pedestrians on the aircraft parking ramps and runways increases the safety of both pilots and visitors.

1.5(a)(1) No aircraft operations ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.

Justification: The airstrip is not lighted, requiring prohibition of aircraft operations ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.

1.5(a)(1) Waterfowl hunters under 16 years of age, must produce a valid Hunter Safety Certificate to invoke parent/guardian hunter license privilege and be accompanied by a properly licensed adult hunter.

Justification: Waterfowl hunters under 16 years of age must demonstrate their knowledge of hunter safety before hunting in designated areas as required by State of North Carolina Regulation.

1.5(a)(1) The cleaning of fish except at locations designated for such purposes is prohibited.

Justification: As opposed to many cleaning products, fish wastes are absolutely biodegradable and can be eaten by other fish, birds, and marine animals. However, when many fish are cleaned and the waste discarded into the same water area on the same day, such as at fishing tournaments, there can be a disposal problem. Too much deteriorating fish waste within a small area of water is unsightly and can result in extremely foul odors, decreased dissolved oxygen levels in the water column, and/or attract predators/scavengers to the area.

When fishing near, on the shore, or bank, it is recommended that all fish remains be bagged and disposed of in an appropriate garbage receptacle, which will help keep the shoreline clean.

Use of fish cleaning stations with trash receptacles, where provided, is required.

When fish cleaning and disposal areas are not provided (Ocracoke); all fish and fish remains must be removed from the beach. All fish remains must be bagged and disposed of in an appropriate garbage receptacle.

1.5(a)(1) Vehicle access to Ramp 45, through Cape Point Campground, is closed when campground is open for the season, unless otherwise designated.

Justification: Ramp 45 can be accessed from Cape Point Road through the Cape Point Campground or from the Ramp 44 entrance. Heavy traffic to Ramp 45 through the campground, however, causes congestion on campground roads, disturbs campers, and poses traffic safety problems. For these reasons, use of the campground access is only permitted during the cooler fall and winter months when the campground is closed to camping.

1.5(a)(1) The flying of all types of kites, including kiteboarding, is prohibited within 150 feet of any overhead power lines regardless of land or water surface (i.e., Haulover Beach, Sandy Bay).

Justification: Prohibiting kites within 150 feet of overhead lines is necessary to prevent injury to kite flyers and kite boarders by shifting and gusting winds.

1.5(a)(1) Flying of all types of kites is prohibited in or above any resource closure.

Justification: Kites can scare birds off their nests leaving eggs and chicks exposed to predators and deadly heat.

1.5(a)(1) The flying of kites is prohibited on the beach adjacent to all designated park airstrips.

Justification: Prohibiting kites on the beach adjacent to the Billy Mitchell and Ocracoke Airstrips is necessary to ensure the safety of pilots and passengers flying in and out of the facility due to its proximity to the beach.

1.5 (a)(1) Definition: The term “unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones, model rockets) that are used for any purpose, including recreation or commerce.

Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.

Justification: Visitor safety is seriously compromised if unmanned aircraft are launched from or flown over park grounds. Unmanned aircraft are a serious threat to the feeding, breeding, nesting and young rearing activities of shorebirds within the seashore. Unmanned aircraft can scare birds off their nests leaving eggs and chicks exposed to predators and deadly heat.

1.5 (a)(1) Remote controlled ground devices (remote controlled cars) are authorized for use in the campgrounds (Oregon Inlet, Frisco, Cape Point, and Ocracoke) when the campgrounds are closed for the season.

Justification: Visitor safety is seriously compromised if radio-controlled cars are operated on park grounds, during the high visitation season.

1.5(a)(2) The Oregon Inlet boat ramp is for the immediate launching and retrieval of vessels only. Mooring and leaving vessels unattended is prohibited. Unattended vessels may be impounded, at owner’s expense.

Justification: The Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp was intended for the immediate launching and retrieval of vessels and was not intended to provide for mooring. Mooring space is available at the adjacent Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Vessels left moored and unattended block access to the ramp and add congestion and safety hazards to an already busy public ramp.

Safe Haven Policy: Vessels seeking safe haven during gale or higher warning conditions may moor at the Oregon Inlet boat ramp or Silver Lake Marina until gale conditions subside. During these conditions, docking fees will not be charged at Silver Lake Marina. This exception does not include electrical fees. Vessels docked at Silver Lake Marina prior to storm warnings going into affect will be charged normal docking fees. Vessels remaining at Silver Lake Marina after gale conditions subside will be charged the applicable docking fee.

Justification: The National Park Service docks at the Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp and on Silver Lake are a designated safe haven for vessels during periods of unsafe weather conditions. This safe haven exception applies to vessels seeking shelter from deteriorating weather conditions which would prove to be a threat to human life and safety if they were to remain in open waters. At Silver Lake Marina vessels seeking safe haven will not be charged dockage fees during the time of gale warning conditions and above for the coastal waters up to 20 miles offshore. This exemption does not apply to vessels already docked and/or registered and paid prior to these weather conditions. This exemption does not include electrical fees. These gale conditions must be for waters immediately adjacent to Oregon Inlet or Ocracoke Island and coastal waters up to 20 miles offshore, for this safe haven policy to be in effect.

The determination of a gale warning will be made by the U.S. Weather Service as broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio Channel KIG 77 in Newport, NC. All vessels at Silver Lake must still register and pay any electric fees during safe haven periods.

Section 1.6 – Permits

Permits are required for the following activities:

  • Beach driving in accordance with 36 CFR (Section 7.58)
  • Non-commercial soliciting (Section 2.37)
  • Special events (Section 2.50)
  • Public assemblies/meetings (Section 2.51)
  • Sale/distribution of printed matter (Section 2.52)
  • Business operations (Section 5.3)
  • Commercial photography (Section 5.5)
  • Primary and Secondary First Amendment areas are identified (Attachment A).
  • Airplane Parking (Section 1.5)
  • Beach Fires
  • Commercial Fishing Permits (36 CFR, Section 7.58)


Section 2.1 Preservation of Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources.

2.1(c) Reasonable quantities of the following may be gathered for personal use and consumption:

  • Down and dead wood including driftwood for fuel in beach fires
  • Pine straw and fallen pine cones
  • Leaves of bayberry/wax myrtle and wild onion
  • Edible fruits of wild grape, persimmon, blackberry, huckleberry, blueberry, mulberry, service berry, prickly pear cactus, and mushrooms
  • Uninhabited sea shells

Justification: Those natural items enumerated are not endangered or rare, and are present in such quantities that the gathering or consumption thereof will not adversely affect park wildlife, reproductive potential of the species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.

Section 2.2 Wildlife Protection.

2.2(e) All park areas are closed to the viewing of wildlife using artificial lights.

Justification: The use of artificial lights to poach park wildlife and disorient nesting turtles has been well documented. Therefore, all park areas are closed to the viewing of wildlife using artificial lights.

Section 2.3 Fishing

2.3(d)(8) Fishing is allowed from the catwalks on the south end of the Bonner (Oregon Inlet) Bridge.

2.3(d)(8) Fishing is allowed from the docks and bulkheads at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

Note: A North Carolina Coastal Recreational fishing license is required for all anglers 16 years of age or older.

Camping and Food Storage

2.10(a) Camping is permitted only in designated campgrounds. Camping on beaches is prohibited. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, all camping is limited to 14 days within a 30-day period. At all campgrounds, campsite occupancy is limited to 6 persons per campsite. With the exception of a family group (i.e. parents & children) of more than 6 individuals, there will be no more than 1 wheeled camping unit plus 1 tent or 2 tents occupying one campsite. All vehicles must be parked on the parking pad, not on the grass or extending into the roadway. A maximum of 2 vehicles is allowed per site.A wheeled camping unit counts as a vehicle, i.e, tent camper and truck. Oregon Inlet, Frisco, and Ocracoke Campgrounds open at noon the first Friday of April. Oregon Inlet and Frisco Campgrounds remain open until noon Columbus Day. Ocracoke Campground remains open until noon on the last Monday in October. Cape Point Campground will open the Friday before Memorial Day and will remain open until noon Labor Day. Campground seasons may be altered as a result of environmental conditions or other reasons deemed appropriate by the Superintendent.

Justification: Many campers would prefer to camp a month or more at a time during the extremely crowded peak season. This severely limits the numbers of visitors that park campgrounds can accommodate. Limiting camping to 14 days during the heavy visitor use season provides more campers an opportunity to utilize the limited available facilities. Limiting the maximum occupancy of campsites (with exceptions for large families) and the number of units and vehicles permitted on an individual site helps to provide a higher quality camping experience by lessening crowding, keeps sewage disposal facilities within design limits, maintains a grass cover on loose soil and prevents accidents caused by vehicles extending into the roadway.

Camping anywhere outside of designated campgrounds is prohibited. Designated campgrounds have been established to protect the environment and limit public use conflicts. Camping is defined as erecting a tent or shelter of natural or synthetic material, preparing a sleeping bag or other bedding material for use, parking of a motor vehicle, motor home or trailer, or mooring of a vessel for the apparent purpose of overnight occupancy. Any parked motor vehicle, motor home, trailer, or moored vessel in the park with one or more occupants not actively engaged in overnight recreational activity will be considered engaged in overnight occupancy.

To provide for fixed and consistent dates for the public, allow the Park to hire staff and schedule maintenance of Oregon Inlet, Frisco, and Ocracoke Campgrounds will open at noon on the first Friday in April and close at noon on Columbus Day. Ocracoke Campground will close at noon on the last Monday in October. Cape Point Campground will open at noon the Friday prior to Memorial Day and close at noon on Labor Day.The lack of winterized comfort stations, occasions of vandalism and poaching, and a low demand for winter camping facilities require that we close campgrounds during cooler months of fall, winter, and spring. Opening and closing dates can vary in response to funding and staffing levels on environmental conditions.

2.10(b)(9) Quiet hours will be from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Justification: Operating devices such as generators, radios, televisions, etc. in a manner that exceeds a noise level of 60 decibels measured on an A-weighted scale at 50 feet; or if below that level, makes noise of any kind which is unreasonable considering the nature and purpose of the person’s conduct, locations, time of day or night, purpose for which the area was established, impact on park users, and other factors that would govern the conduct of a reasonably prudent person is prohibited.

Section 2.13 Fires

2.13(a)(1) All fires must be no greater than 3 feet in diameter. The use of treated wood products and wood containing nails and other foreign material will not be used for fire construction. Disposal of glass, plastics, and cans in fires is prohibited. Ground fires are prohibited in all other portions of the Seashore. Beach fires are authorized year-rough, with the following restrictions: A non-fee educational fire permit is required for any beach fires, fire prohibited from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. year round; fires are prohibited within resource closures and within 100 meters of any turtle nest closure, May 1 to November 15; beach fire would be permitted only in front of Coquina Beach, Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras Village, and Ocracoke Day Use area during the sea turtle nesting season.

2.13(a)(1) Fires within designated campgrounds must be contained in a grill, stove, or other self-contained unit and are allowed for cooking fires only. Only charcoal and wood chips are allowed as fuel in grills and other self-contained units. Ground fires are not prohibited in campgrounds.

Justification: Restrictions on ground fires in campgrounds are necessary to protect park resources and adjacent landowners from wildfires caused by building fires too close to flammable grasses and other vegetation. Ground fires also increase maintenance costs while decreasing campsite esthetics.

2.13(a)(5) Fires must be fully extinguished and cold to the touch. Fully extinguished coals and ash may be placed in bags and disposed in the provided trash containers. Coals and ash may not be emptied onto the ground. Do not bury extinguished fires.

Justification: Restrictions on beach fires are necessary to protect park resources and adjacent landowners from wildfires caused by careless visitors building fires too close to highly flammable dune grass and not extinguishing completely. Use of water to extinguish fire is recommended. There’s an increased number of recorded law enforcement incidents as a direct result of large groups associated with beach fires during late evening hours.

Section 2.15 Pets

2.15(a)(1) Pets are prohibited in all resource closures, lifeguarded beach areas, boardwalks, and bath facilities adjacent to these areas due to visitor use conflict, health, and safety concerns. Pets are prohibited, even on a leash, from the landward side of the posts delineating the ORV corridor at the spits (Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke) and Cape Point. Pets would be prohibited in pedestrian shoreline access areas in front of (i.e. seaward of) bird pre-nesting areas.

2.15(a) (5) Pet excrement must be picked up and disposed of in provided trash containers in all areas of the seashore.

2.15(b) Dogs used for hunting are required to be leashed going to and from the hunting areas.

2.15(e) Permanent park residents, not in shared housing, may keep pets in accordance with 36 CFR 2.15 and the Park’s approved Housing Management Plan. Pets including dogs, cats, and other domesticated pets shall be physically confined to the occupant’s house or outside wire cage/pen. Pets including cats shall be restrained on a maximum 6-foot leash or a leash attached to a run line when outside of the residence.

Justification: Compendium item 2.15(e) allows permanent park residents the same opportunities to keep pets as they would have if they lived outside of the park bounds. Pets are to be confined or restrained at all times due to their potential negative impact on park resources, neighbors, and park employees. Pets are prohibited in lifeguarded beach areas, boardwalks, and bath facilities adjacent to these areas due to visitor use conflict and health and safety concerns. Removal of pet excrement is necessary due to health and sanitation.

Section 2.16 Horses and Pack Animals

2.16(b) Horses may be ridden or used only in the following designated areas:

  • On the beach seaward of the existing dunes, which are open to public vehicular access and only on designated public vehicular beach access routes.
    • Bodie Island – 5/10th mile South of Ramp 2 to Ramp 2.5, year round, within 20 feet from the toe of the dune.
    • Hatteras Island – October through March, Vehicle Free Area Ramp 45 to proposed Ramp 47.5.
  • Along road shoulders or across paved routes where travel is necessary to cross to or from beach access routes.
  • October through March on the Open Ponds Trail, from the trail head at Lighthouse Road in Buxton to the Frisco Woods Trail.
  • Year round on the Frisco Woods Trail from Great Ridge Road in Frisco to the Frisco beach areas designated ORV beach route East of Ramp 49.
  • On trails or in areas designated under Commercial Use Authorizations or Special Use Permits.
  • Horses are prohibited in resource closures, on lifeguarded beaches, in park campgrounds, picnic areas, and the Ocracoke bike trail. Pedestrian shoreline access areas in front of (i.e. seaward of) bird pre-nesting areas.

2.16(g) Conditions established by the Superintendent concerning the use of horses or pack animals:

  • Horse excrement, hay, straw and/or bedding materials must be removed from all parking/staging areas and along the Open Ponds Trail from the pavement at Lighthouse Road to 50 feet past the British Cemetery must be removed.

Justification: Horseback riding and the use of pack animals is restricted to the areas specified in Compendium item 2.16 (b) to insure compatibility between visitor use, resource protection, and visitor safety. Established roads and trails, which are not open to motor vehicles, are closed to horses and pack animals. Use in areas not specified would cause unacceptable resource damage and/or cause unacceptable risks to visitor safety. The Open Ponds Trail between Buxton and Frisco is a section of the Mountain-to-Sea Trails program.

April through September the Open Ponds trail, except by Commercial Use Authorization or a Special Use Permit, will be closed to horseback riding and pack animals to allow for the recovery of vegetation and grasses that are damaged by horse hoofs and pack animals. Frisco Woods Trail is designated for horseback riding year round under a Commercial Use Authorization with trail maintenance requirement.

Section 2.20 Skating, Skateboards, Trikkes, and Similar Devices

The use of roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, in-line skates, coasting vehicles, Trikkes; and similar devices is prohibited except in the following locations under the following conditions:

  • In Ocracoke and Cape Point Campgrounds when they are closed for the season.
  • No artificial ramps or jumps are permitted.

Justification: All existing roads and other paved areas within Cape Hatteras National Seashore are high volume areas designated either for motor vehicles or pedestrian use. The mixing of skating, skateboards, trikes, and similar devices in those areas would present unacceptable risks to visitor safety and increase the potential for personal injury. The exception is Ocracoke and Cape Point Campgrounds when they are closed for the season and there is little potential for conflict.

Section 2.21 Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in the following areas:

  • All government buildings.
  • All government quarters except in designated unshared, non-historic frame units.
  • All government vehicles.

Justification: The restrictions on smoking are required and in accordance with Code of Federal Regulations, Title 41, Section, 101-20.105-3.

Section 2.35 Alcoholic Beverages and Controlled Substances

2.35(a)(3i) Bodie Island hunting area is closed to the consumption, use, and possession of alcohol.

2.35(a)(3i) Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all visitor centers, museums, lighthouses, and government offices and buildings, unless authorized by a Special Use Permit.

Justification: The consumption and possession of alcohol in the hunting area is not conducive to accepted safe hunting practices. The consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages in visitor centers, museums, lighthouses, and government offices and buildings is not conducive to the purpose of the facilities.

Section 2.51 Public Assemblies, Meetings

2.51(a) Public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades, and other public expression of views are allowed in designated park areas. Twenty-six (26) or more participants or other areas will require a Special Use Permit issued by the Superintendent.

Justification: Public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades, and other public expression of views are allowed within park areas, provided a permit, therefore, has been issued by the Superintendent. Permits and directions for authorized Section 2.51 activities are available in the Superintendent’s office. The designated areas on the map are hereby authorized for permitted activities provided no prior application for a permit for the same time and place has been made, that has been or will be granted, and the activities authorized by that permit do not reasonably allow multiple occupancy of that particular area.


Section 3.8 - What Vessel Operations are Prohibited?

3.8(a)(2) Designated launch sites:

  • Bodie Island: All ocean and soundside areas and Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp.
  • Hatteras Island: All soundside access areas and the Cable Crossing. All oceanside areas are open to boat launching and recovery. Motorized recreational vessels are prohibited from launching or retrieving 0.5 miles either side of Cape Point. Non-motorized vessels may be launched and retrieved within park waters.
  • Ocracoke Island: Marina boat ramps and all ocean and soundside areas.
  • Launching or recovery of vessels is prohibited within resource closures and within designated swim beaches.

Justification: The designated non-commercial recreational boat/vessel launching sites at Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp and Ocracoke Marina boat ramps are two areas equipped with boat ramps and docks and are recommended sites to launch and retrieve boats. Due to unsafe conditions and visitor use conflicts (i.e., deep sand, surf conditions, crowded beach areas, and beach closures), soundside launching in other areas of the park is recommended between May 15 to September 15.


Section 4.2 State Law Applicable

4.2(a) Vehicles operated on park roads, parking areas, routes designated for off-road use, and all other areas of the park must meet all requirements including vehicle equipment, licenses and registration, to operate legally on state highways where the vehicle is registered.

4.2(a) Vehicle operators shall have a current state driver’s license.

Justification: 36 CFR 4.2 states, that traffic and the use of vehicles within a park area are governed by State law. Much of the Seashore’s traffic and vehicle operations occur on unpaved beach access roads or on the beaches themselves. Application of State law in these areas is necessary to ensure proper licensing of drivers, proper registration of vehicles, safe operating condition of vehicles, and safe driving practices by motor vehicle operators.

Section 4.10 - Travel on Roads and Designated Routes

4.10(a) When driving off-road, the Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) holder is required to obtain an Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) permit in accordance with 36 CFR, Section 7.58. Designated vehicular access routes to beach or soundside vehicle areas, is prohibited without an ORV permit. In order to obtain a permit, an applicant must comply with vehicle and equipment requirements, complete a short education program in a manner and location specified by the Superintendent, acknowledge in writing an understanding of the rules governing ORV use at the Seashore, and pay the permit fee.

4.10(a) The Superintendent may revoke an ORV Permit for violations of park regulations including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Possession of Controlled Substance
  • Night Driving
  • Resource Closure Violations (bird and turtle areas)
  • Careless/reckless operations
  • Fictitious/False Vehicle Registration
  • No Drivers License
  • Suspended/Revoked Drivers License
  • Speeding in Off-Road areas

Section 4.21 Speed Limits

4.21(b) The speed limit on park beaches is 15 mph, or 5 mph within 100 feet of pedestrians.

Justification: The maximum speed allowed on beach and soundside off-road vehicle areas is 15 mph. Speeds in excess of 15 mph could cause injury or damage to park resources and present a clear and present danger to the public’s health and safety.

Documented incidents, congestion, and beach conditions do not allow for safe operation of vehicles at speed limits greater than 15 mph. The speed limit is 5 mph within 100 feet of pedestrians.

Assimilated Laws

As Cape Hatteras National Seashore manages under concurrent jurisdiction, State of North Carolina statues are assimilated.

Firearms Regulations

As of February 22, 2010, a new federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws to legally possess firearms in this park.

It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this park. As a starting point about state and local firearms laws please go to the following web site and select the state that you are interested in from the list on the right side of the page:

Click here to review the State of North Carolina Reciprocity Agreement.

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