Laws & Policies


It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this park.

Superintendent's Compendium

The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations pertaining specifically to the administration of the park. The Superintendent’s Compendium does not repeat regulations found in 36 CFR and other United States Code and CFR Titles, which are enforced without further elaboration at the park level.

Copies of the Compendium are available at Park Headquarters located at: 1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954. Request a signed copy via email and US Postal Service here.


2023 Superintendent's Compendium

Signed by David Hallac, Superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, April 17, 2023

1.    Superintendent’s Compendium Described

The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations pertaining specifically to the administration of the park. The Superintendent’s Compendium does not repeat regulations found in 36 CFR and other United States Code and CFR Titles, which are enforced without further elaboration at the park level.

The regulations contained in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, are the basic mechanism used by the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of the park and to protect visitors and property within the park. Parts 1 through 6 are general regulations applicable to all areas of the National Park system, and Part 7 contains special regulations specific to individual parks. Each of these Parts has many sections and subsections articulating specific provisions. Within some of these Part 1-7 sections and subsections, the Superintendent is granted discretionary authority to develop local rules to be responsive to the needs of a specific park resource or activity, park plan, program, and/or special needs of the general public.

As an example, 36 CFR 1.5(a) Closures and Public Use Limits provides the Superintendent certain discretion in allowing or disallowing certain activities. The authority granted by the Section, however, requires the Superintendent to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (6 USC Section 551), which requires public notice on actions with major impact on visitor use patterns, park resources or those that are highly controversial in nature.

Another example is 36 CFR 1.6 Permits, which allows the Superintendent to require a permit for certain uses and activities in the park. This Section, however, requires that a list of activities needing a permit (and a fee schedule for the various types of permits) be maintained by the park.

A final example is 36 CFR 2.1(c) (1) Preservation of Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources, which provides the Superintendent the authority to designate certain fruits, nuts, berries or unoccupied seashells which may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption. 

This activity can occur, however, only if a written determination shows that the allowed activity does not adversely affect park wildlife, the reproductive potential of a plant species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.

This Compendium should be used in conjunction with Title 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, to more fully understand the regulations governing the use and enjoyment of all the areas of the national Park System.

A copy of Title 36, CFR, can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office at:

Superintendent of Documents
P.O. Box 371954
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

The CFR is also available on the Internet at:

2. Laws and Policies Allowing the Superintendent to Develop This Compendium

The Secretary, acting through the Director of the National Park Service, shall promote and regulate the use of the National Park System by means and measures that conform to the fundamental purpose of the System units, which purpose is to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in the System units and to provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (54 U.S.C. §100101(a)).

In 1970, Congress declared:
(A) the National Park System, which began with establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region of the United States and its territories and possessions;
(B) these areas, though distinct in character, are united through their interrelated purposes and resources into one National Park System as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage;
(C) individually and collectively, these areas derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superb environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one System preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States; and
(D) it is the purpose of this division to include all these areas in the System and to clarify the authorities applicable to the System (54 U.S.C. §100101(b)).

54 U.S.C. §100102(2) defines the National Park System as” …any areas of land and water administered by the Secretary, acting through the Director, for park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational, or other purposes.”

In addition to the above statutory authority, the Superintendent is guided by established NPS policy as found in the NPS Management Policies (2006). The Superintendent is also guided by more specific policies promulgated by the Director, National Park Service, in the form of Director’s Orders. 

As stated in the Management Policies, the primary responsibility of the NPS is to protect and preserve our national natural and cultural resources while providing for the enjoyment of these resources by visitor and other users, as long as use does not impair specific park resourcesor overall visitor experience. The appropriateness of any particular visitor use or recreational experience is resource-based and will vary from park to park; therefore, a use or activity that is appropriate in one park area may not be appropriate in another. 

The Superintendent is directed to analyze overall park use and determine if any particular use is appropriate. Where conflict arises between use and resource protection, where the Superintendent has a reasonable basis to believe a resource is or would become impaired, then that Superintendent is obliged to place limitations on public use.

3. Consistency of This Compendium with Applicable Federal Law and Requirements

The Superintendent’s Compendium is not considered a significant rule requiring review by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866. In addition, this Compendium will not have a significant economic effect on a number of small entities nor impose a significant cost on any local, state or tribal government or private organization, and therefore does not fall under the requirements of either the Regulatory Flexibility Act or the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

The actions and requirements described in this Compendium are found to be categorically excluded from further compliance with the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Department of the Interior (DOI) Guidelines 516 DM 6 and as such, an Environmental Assessment will not be prepared.

4. Development of the Requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium

As outlined above, the NPS has broad authority and responsibility to determine what types of uses and activities are appropriate in any particular National Park System area. The requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium are developed through an analysis and determination process. The decision criteria used during this process are:

• Is the use or activity consistent with the NPS Organic Act and NPS policy?
• Is the use or activity consistent and compatible with the park’s enabling legislation,
management objectives, and corresponding management plans?
• Will the use or activity damage the park’s protected natural and cultural resources and other
protected values?
• Will the use or activity disturb or be in conflict with wildlife, vegetation, and environmental
protection actions and values?
• Will the use or activity conflict with or be incompatible with traditional park uses and
• Will the use or activity compromise employee or public safety?

5. Applicability of the Compendium

The rules contained in this Compendium apply to all persons entering, using, visiting or otherwise present on federally owned lands, including submerged lands, and waters administered by the NPS within the legislative boundaries of the park. This includes all waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, including all navigable waters.

6. Enforcement of Compendium Requirements

NPS Law Enforcement Park Rangers enforce the requirements of the United State Code, 36 CFR, and this Superintendent’s Compendium.

7. Penalties for Not Adhering to the Compendium Requirements

A person who violates any provision of the regulations found in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, or provisions of this Compendium, is subject to a fine as provided by law (18 U.S.C. 3571) up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months (18 U.S.C. 3559), or both, and shall be adjudged to pay all court costs associated with any court proceedings. You may receive a list of fines associated with any particular provision by contacting the Chief Ranger at the park address found below.

8. Comments on the Compendium

The Compendium is reviewed annually and revised as necessary. The park welcomes comments about its program and activities at any time.

Written comments on the Compendium may be submitted to:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive
Manteo, NC 27954

9. Effective Date of the Superintendent’s Compendium

The Superintendent’s Compendium is effective on the approval date listed on the first page of this document, and remains in effect until revised. 

10. Additional Information

Some of the terms used in this Compendium may have specific meaning defined in 36 CFR 1.4 Definitions.

11. Availability

Copies of the Compendium are available at Park Headquarters located at: 1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954

It may also be found at

Under the authority of Title 54 USC Section 100751(a), and Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Parts 1-7, a Superintendent's Compendium is established for Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Regulations listed in this compendium are requirements in addition to those listed in the specific section found in Title 36 unless otherwise noted. The specific authority for this regulatory procedure is found in §1.5, 1.6, and 1.7 of Title 36. Written determinations, which explain the reasoning behind the Superintendent’s use of discretionary authority, as required by Section 36 CFR 1.5 (c), appear in this document identified as “justification.”

(a)(1) The following visiting hours and public use limits are established for all or for the
listed portions of the park, and the following closures are established for all or a portion of the park to all public use or to a certain use or activity:

•    Posted bird nesting areas are closed to all public use and entry. 
•    Posted turtle nesting areas are closed to all vehicular entry, including commercial fishing vehicles (visitors may walk in front of turtle nests – walking as close as practicable to the surf line –although occasionally, where signed, visitors may be directed to walk behind nest closures).
•    Posted Sea Beach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) sites are closed to public use and entry.

(Justification: Bird nesting areas are marked and posted against entry during the nesting period to prevent disturbance by vehicles, persons, or their pets during reproductive periods. 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.)

Oregon Inlet North Shore Pond

•    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.")

Oregon Inlet No Wake Zone
A "No Wake Zone" is an area within which vessels are required to travel at idling speed or such slow speed that creates no appreciable wake.

No person shall operate a motorboat in the area identified as Motts Creek greater than "no wake" speed. For the purpose of this rule "no wake" speed means idling speed or a slow speed creating no appreciable wake.

Motts Creek includes the USCG Oregon Intet, Oregon Inlet Fishing Center Marina, Oregon Inlet Public Boat Launch and public kayak launch. The Motts Creek no wake zone encompases the waters surrounding all the previous mentioned entities and extends from the mouth of the boat basin into the sound approximately 900 feet to the "no wake zone" bouys.

(Justification: The area is used by large charter boats, USCG vessels, general motorized recreational vessels, nonmotorized vessels and wade fishermen. The flat wake ensures a safe area of navigation for all users during day and night. This also reduces the impact to area vegetation and shoreline erosion).


•    Beach opening times. 
Priority routes (year-round ORV routes accessible from Ramp 2, Ramp 4, Ramp 25, Ramp 27, Ramp 43, Ramp 44, Ramp 48, Ramp 49, Ramp 70, and Ramp 72) will open to ORV use at 6:00 a.m. in May, June, and July. In August and September, priority routes will open to ORV use at 6:30 a.m. and then all beaches with ORV routes not already open for 24 hour driving will open at 7:00 a.m.  from October 1 until November 15. Other ORV routes will open at 7:00 a.m. when night driving restrictions are in place.

If any of these priority routes are closed for an extended period of time due to erosion or weather conditions (e.g., flooding), alternate year round ORV routes may be opened at earlier times in lieu of the designated priority routes, as long as no conflict exists with any restrictions expressed in the Seashore’s existing ORV/species management plans or regulations. 

On occasion, circumstances may prevent the routes from opening at the designated time.  The NPS will make all efforts to open these routes as soon as possible.

(Justification: The NPS needs time and ambient light to survey beaches for overnight wildlife use prior to opening routes for ORV use.  This time allows staff to provide the appropriate protections for wildlife nesting areas that may have been established during the overnight hours.)

Personal watercraft 

•    Personal watercraft may not be towed on trailers or transported on Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Routes within the boundaries. 

•    Personal watercraft (PWC) definition: The official definition of a personal watercraft varies from state to state, but they are generally recognized as a vessel which uses an inboard motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of motive power, and which is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel, rather than the conventional manner of sitting or standing in the vessel. 

(Justification: The enforcement of this prohibited use on 67 miles of shoreline is difficult due to the ability to launch and retrieve these craft rapidly. Therefore, the towing and transportation of personal watercraft on ORV routes is prohibited.  Under 36CFR section 3.9, personal watercraft use is not authorized within the Seashore.) 

Swimming Areas and Beaches

•    In accordance with Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations §3.17 (a) -The following areas are designated as swim areas or beaches; Coquina lifeguard beach, Buxton lifeguard beach, Frisco lifeguard beach, Ocracoke lifeguard beach.
•    The following activities or items are prohibited within the designated swim areas or lifeguard beaches only when a lifeguard is present from the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend to the Monday of Labor Day; surfboarding, fishing, smoking, having glass containers, and pets. 
•    The placement of canopies in front of a lifeguard tower is strictly prohibited while lifeguards are present.

(Justification:  Lifeguarded beaches and swim areas represent only a small portion of the Seashore and typically receive heavy use.  In an effort to make these areas safe for swimmers and enjoyable to all the above listed incompatible activities have been identified.   To ensure lifeguards have an unobstructed view of the ocean no canopies will be placed in front of the lifeguard stands.)

Vehicle Parking

•    All vehicles parking at the Whalebone Information Center are required to park in designated parking spaces on the paved surface.

•    Parking is limited to two hours at Whalebone Information Center.

(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 have resulted in large numbers of vehicles parking on the grass, denuding the area, and preventing mowing and other required grounds maintenance. 

•    Parking at the Ocracoke boat ramp parking lot is limited to day use only (commercial and/or construction equipment and vehicle parking is prohibited).  An overnight parking permit may be issued on a limited basis for overnight tow vehicle and unloaded boat trailer parking associated with overnight/multi-day recreational boat use and may be obtained at the Visitor Center during normal business hours.  Vehicles may be parked overnight without a permit once the Superintendent designates a weather emergency which may cause Ocracoke Island flooding.  Vehicles should be removed within 72 hours after the weather event. 

(Justification: Limiting parking at the Ocracoke boat ramp parking lot will allow more visitors an opportunity to experience the national seashore.  This parking area has been used as a storage lot for commercial and private vehicles, boat trailers, and personal property and equipment for extended periods of time.  The intended use of this parking lot is to provide adequate parking for Cape Hatteras National Seashore visitors accessing park resources during the day.)

•    Parking is prohibited along Billy Mitchell Road except for: Extended overnight parking along Billy Mitchell Road in Frisco will be allowed prior to and immediately following severe weather events, defined in this scenario as storms projected to create localized flooding.  All vehicles must be parked on the shoulder only and not block the roadway.  All vehicles must be removed within 3 days after the severe weather event has passed.

(Justification:  Billy Mitchell Road has the highest elevation in the area and provides ample parking for local residents and visitors to protect their vehicles from being flooded in low lying areas. Vehicles left longer than this time frame add congestion and safety hazards and prevents grounds maintenance.)

Boat Mooring
•    The docking of a boat for more than 14 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day at the Silver Lake Marina and Ocracoke docks 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.)

•    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 may be 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.)

•    Vessels moored at Silver Lake Marina will pay docking fees.  Fees may be waived during gale warning or higher conditions.

(Justification: A Safe Haven Policy may be implemented for vessels seeking safe haven during gale or higher warning conditions at Silver Lake Marina until gale conditions subside. During these conditions, docking fees may be waived at Silver Lake Marina.)

Aircraft Use
•    Aircraft may not park at Billy Mitchell or Ocracoke Airstrips for more than a 14-day period, or no more than 30 days total per calendar year.

(Justification: This restriction allows for more equitable use by other visitors to experience the Seashore.)

•    Unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians are not permitted on the airstrip tarmac or runways. 

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

•    Aircraft maintenance and refueling are prohibited unless in emergency circumstances.

(Justification: The facilities at Billy Mitchell and Ocracoke Airstrips do not allow for a proper response to a hazardous material spill.)

•    Aircraft operations are prohibited from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise at the Billy Mitchell and Ocracoke Airstrips.

(Justification: The airstrips are not lighted. This restriction provides appropriate safety measures by eliminating aircraft operations ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.)

Quiet Hours
•    Silver Lake Dock quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.

(Justification: Silver Lake Marina quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, in accordance with local community quiet hours.)

Horse Pasture
•    Public use and entry into the enclosed horse pasture located on Ocracoke Island is prohibited.

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

•    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 (e.g. 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.)

•    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.)

•    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.)

Unmanned Aircraft and Vehicles

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

•    Personal recreational use is not currently authorized.

•    In limited cases the following activities may be considered acceptable use of UAS systems and subject to approval by the superintendent.  

o    Administrative use includes the use of unmanned aircraft by: 
    NPS personnel as operators or crew; 
    Cooperators such as government agencies and universities. 
    For Scientific Research that benefits the preservation of natural and cultural resources. 

(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.)

(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.)

•    Remote controlled ground devices (remote controlled cars) are not authorized for use in the Frisco and Cape Point Campgrounds when the campgrounds are closed for the season. They are prohibitied in all other areas of the seashore.

(Justification: The increased use of these areas during the high visitation season are not ideal places to use remote controlled vehicles.  The use of these devices poses a risk to a motor vehicle if it attempts to avoid the RC car in the road.  The safety of other road users may be compromised by this competing use.)

(a)(2) The superintendent may designate areas for a specific use or activity or impose conditions or restrictions on a use or activity.

COVID 19 Guidelines

When the COVID-19 Community Level is LOW or MEDIUM in the county or all the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals are not required to wear masks.

When the COVID-19 Community Level is HIGH in the county or all the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the CDC, all individuals over the age of two must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all common areas and shared workspaces in buildings owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the National Park Service, including, but not limited to, park visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops and restaurants.
When the COVID-19 Community Level is HIGH in one or more, but not all, of the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the CDC, the superintendent will determine whether individuals are required to wear masks. The requirement, if any, will apply to all facilities within the park.

Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.

Regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level, individuals may wear masks if they choose to do so. Where a state, local, tribal, or territorial government where the park is located imposes more protective mask-wearing requirements than those indicated by the COVID-19 Community Level, individuals must follow those more protective requirements within the park. More protective state, local, tribal, or territorial mask-wearing requirements are hereby adopted as federal requirements in all units of the National Park System located within that state, locality, area subject to a federally recognized Indian tribe’s regulatory jurisdiction, or territory, regardless of a particular park’s jurisdictional status.

Additionally, all individuals must wear masks in or on public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs/facilities, to the extent required by current orders or directives issued by the CDC, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or other federal agencies with jurisdiction over those conveyances or areas. As of March 4, 2022, CDC and TSA orders or directives require all individuals regardless of vaccination status to wear masks in indoor areas of all forms of public transportation conveyances, including busses, trains, and boats/ferries, and in the indoor premises of transportation hubs/facilities. Individuals are not required to wear masks while outdoors on conveyances or while outdoors on the premises of transportation hubs/facilities.

(Justification: In accordance with E.O. 13991, it is the policy of the National Park Service and Cape Hatteras National Seashore to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures. Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the CDC.

Bonner Bridge Pier

The following conditions are established for the use of the Bonner Bridge Pier.

•    Canopies, umbrellas, or shade structures are prohibited on the pier.

(Justification: This restriction limits the risk these items would have to the safety of the other visitors if they were to blow around in the wind. These types of items would impact and restrict the visibility for visitors who are sightseeing from the pier.)

•    Standing on, sitting on, or climbing on or over the railing to gain access to the pilings/pier structure below is prohibited.

(Justification: These actions pose a significant safety risk that could result in serious injury or death.)

•     All entry by swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers, boats, vessels, or water-based craft (e.g., kayaks, paddleboards, or other motorized or non-motorized watercraft) closer than 100 feet from the Pier structure is prohibited.

(Justification: This area experiences strong tides making it difficult to operate water-based crafts in a safe manner.  The presence of individuals, boats, vessels, and other water-based craft below would interfere with the ability for pier users to fish and poses a safety risk to individuals in the water due to fishing lines, weights, and hooks.)

•    Fires and grills are prohibited.

(Justification: Open fire or flames present a safety risk to visitors within the limited space of the fishing pier.  This activity is not consistent with the intended use of the pier.)

•    Generators are prohibited.

(Justification: Noise from generators impact the visitor experience and is not consistent with the use of the area for pier based recreational activities.)

•    “Pin rigs”, “king rigs”, and similar “two pole fishing” systems and methods, where baits or lures from one rod are anchored by way of a weight or anchoring systems from another fishing rod, are prohibited. 

(Justification: This style of fishing would restrict the space available to other anglers.)

•    Glass containers are prohibited.

(Justification: The surface of the fishing pier is concrete, and the use of glass products would likely break if in contact with the concrete surface.  The broken glass would create a serious safety concern.)

•    All pets are prohibited on the fishing pier.
(Justification: Pets contained within a limited space have the potential for visitor conflicts, injury to patrons and or other pets, and pet excrement and sanitation concerns.)

•    Limit of 2 fishing poles per angler.

(Justification: This limit is imposed to allow equal access to all people fishing on the pier.)

(f) The following is a compilation of those activities for which a permit from thesuperintendent is required. A permit may be requested by contacting Park Headquarters at 252-473-2111.
  • Beach driving in accordance with 36 CFR (Section 7.58)
    • Annual ORV permits will be valid for 365 days from the date of issuance.
    • A 10-day permit is also available.
  • Non-commercial soliciting (Section 2.37)
  • Special events (Section 2.50)
  • Public assemblies/meetings (Section 2.51) Designated First Amendment areas are identified in attached maps
  • Sale/distribution of printed matter (Section 2.52)
  • Business operations (Section 5.3)
  • Commercial photography (Section 5.5)
  • Airplane Parking (Section 1.5)
  • Vehicle Parking (Section 1.5)
  • Beach Fires (Section 2.13)
  • Vessel Removal (Section 3.14)
  • Commercial Fishing (Section 7.58)
  • Hunting Blind Assignments (Section 7.58(a)13)

c)(1), (c)(2) The following fruits, nuts, berries or unoccupied seashells may be gathered byhand for personal use or consumption, in accordance with the noted size, quantity,collection sites and/or use or consumption restrictions:
  • The following items which may be gathered have an identified limit per person per day.
    • Edible fruits of wild grape, persimmon, blackberry, huckleberry, blueberry, mulberry, service berry, prickly pear cactus, and mushrooms.  1 gallon.
    • All uninhabited sea shells - (one) 5-gallon bucket, not for commerical use.
(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. The limitation of quantity is in place to allow all visitors the same opportunity to gather wanted items.)

(e) All areas within the park are closed to viewing wildlife with any type of artificial light.
(Justification: Prohibiting the use of artificial lights minimizes the potential for the illegal taking of wildlife and disorienting nesting turtles during night periods.)

(e) Except as otherwise designated, fishing with a net, spear, or weapon in the saltwaters of park areas shall be in accordance with State law.
  • There are no sites within the park area designated for the use of Bait launchers or any device used to propel bait and or fishing gear with compressed air, gas or explosive.
  • The possession of a bait launcher with the intent to use is prohibited.
(Justification:  Although this prohibition was originally in place under state law, recent findings have shown that this restriction was removed by the state of North Carolina. The launcher is an implement designed to discharge frozen cylindrical shaped chunks of ice imbedded with bait. These implements meet the NPS definition of a weapon under Title 36 CFR 1.4. The NPS is concerned with the potential hazards these items may have on public safety either to swimmers, unbeknownst to the user, that would be in the trajectory of the missile or the public walking on the beach in the event the implement misfires or falls over during launch and creates a trajectory over land in the location of public users.)

(h) Notwithstanding any other provision in this Chapter, a person may possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a national park area in accordance with the laws of the state in which the national park area, or that portion thereof, is located, except as otherwise prohibited by applicable Federal law.
  • Pursuant to 18 USC § 930, federal law prohibits posessing or causing to be present a fiream or other dangerous weapon in a federal facility, with few execptions. These facilities are marked with signs at public entrances.
  • Federal facilities are defined as: a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.

The superintendent may require permits, designate sites or areas, and establish conditions for camping. The sites and areas listed below have been designated for camping activities as noted.DESIGNATED CAMPING
  • Camping is permitted only in designated campgrounds as listed on printed park maps and information brochures.
  • A parked motor vehicle, motor home, trailer, or moored vessel in the park with one or more occupants must be actively engaged in an overnight recreational activity to be considered not camping.
(Justification: Designated campgrounds have been established to protect the immediate environment and limit public use conflicts).

  • From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, all camping is limited to 14 days consecutive days at each campground.  
  • 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.)
(Justification: Restrictions limiting the duration of camping will allow all campers to have the opportunity to enjoy camping in America's First National Seashore. Established limits are designated to prevent resource damage and impacts to sites and allow for an enjoyable recreational experience).

(a)(1) The lighting or maintaining of fires is generally prohibited, except as provided for inthe following designated areas and/or receptacles, and under the conditions noted:
  • Beach Fires are authorized year-round under the following conditions.
    • A free permit is required for any beach fires
    • All beach 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
    • Fires are prohibited during the following conditions:
-From 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. -Within resource closures -Within 100 meters of any turtle nest closure
  • May 1 to November 15 beach fires are only permitted on the beaches in front of: Coquina Beach Parking Lot, Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Day Use Area.
  • Nov 16 – April 30 beach fires are allowed throughout the park unless otherwise restricted.
  • Ground fires are prohibited in campgrounds.
  • Grills, camping stoves, and other self-contained units are only allowed for cooking within the designated campgrounds. Only charcoal and wood chips are allowed as fuel in grills and other self-contained units (unless a government installed fire ring is present).
  • Fires are prohibited in all other portions of the Seashore.
(Justification: Restrictions limiting ground fires in campgrounds to government installed fire rings and self-contained units are necessary to protect park resources and adjacent landowners from wildfires caused by constructing fires too close to flammable grasses and other vegetation.  Limiting the hours for beach fires will reduce night lighting and potential distraction to nesting wildlife). 

(a)(7) Disposing of fish remains on land, or in waters within 200 feet of boat docks or designated swimming beaches, or within developed areas, except as otherwise designated is prohibited
  • The cleaning of fish except at locations designated for such purposes is prohibited.
  • Use of fish cleaning stations with trash receptacles, where provided, is required.
  • When fish cleaning and disposal areas are not provided, all fish and fish remains must be removed from the beach, bagged and/or disposed of in an appropriate garbage receptacle.
(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.)

*****Service animals are not subject to the park’s pet policies and, when accompanying an individual with a disability, they are allowed wherever visitors are allowed.  A service animal means any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.

(a)(1) The following structures and/or areas are closed to the possession of pets:
  • Resource closures
  • Lifeguarded beach areas during Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
  • Pedestrian shoreline access areas in front of (i.e. seaward of) bird pre-nesting areas.
(Justification: The presence of pets serves as a disturbance both by sight and smell that may be detrimental to the health and viability of birds engaged in nesting activities or young recently hatched sensing the presence of a potential predator. Pets in high density or limited access public use areas and walkways create the potential for disturbances and nuisance to the visiting public and the potential unwanted findings of pet excrement that is not properly disposed or deposited on porous walkways. )

(a)(5) Failing to comply with pet excrement disposal conditions which may be established by the superintendent
  • Pet excrement must be immediately picked up and properly disposed of.
(b) In those areas where hunting is allowed, dogs may be used in support of these activities in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws and in accordance with conditions which may be established by the superintendent.
  • Dogs used for hunting are required to be leashed going to and from the hunting areas.
(Justification: This restriction serves to ensure that dogs are under physical control while accessing hunting areas and minimize disturbance to other hunters and recreational park users. This restriction complies with existing restrictions under Title 36 CFR 2.15(a)(2).)

(e) Pets may be kept by residents of park areas consistent with the provisions of this section and in accordance with conditions which may be established by the superintendent. Violation of these conditions is prohibited.
  • Refer to Housing Management Plan
(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 boundary. 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.)

(b) The use of horses or pack animals outside of trails, routes or areas designated for their use.Horses may be ridden or used only in the following designated areas:
  • Designated ORV ramps and routes open to vehicular travel.
  • Seaward of the existing dunes on beaches open to vehicular travel.
    • Along road shoulders or across paved routes where travel is necessary to cross to or from beach access routes.
    • Piney Ridge Trail, Sedge Trail and Boundary Trail
    • Open Ponds Trail
  • October through March only:
      • Vehicle-Free Area Ramp 45 to Ramp 48
    • On trails or in areas designated under Commercial Use Authorizations or Special Use Permits.
Horses are prohibited at:
  • Ramp 72 (also known as South Point Road)
All equine users upon request must provide proof of a negative Coggins test or similar Equine Infectious Anemia test performed within the last 12 months.

(Justification: Horseback riding and the use of pack animals is restricted to the areas specified in 2.16 (b) to ensure compatibility between visitor use, resource protection, and visitor safety. Use in areas not specified would cause unacceptable resource damage and/or cause unacceptable risks to visitor safety.  South Point Road on Ocracoke Island (Ramp 72) is heavily used by motor vehicle traffic, the ramp does not offer adequate shoulder space to safely stay clear of any vehicles; horse use should access beaches via Ramp 70. A negative Equine Infectious Anemia test results are needed for the protection park and visitor stock.)

(g) Violation of conditions which may be established by the superintendent concerning the use of horses or pack animals.
  • Horse excrement, hay, straw and/or bedding materials must be immediately 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.
(Justification: Horseback riding and the use of pack animals is restricted to the areas specified in Compendium item 2.16 (b) to ensure compatibility between visitor use, resource protection, and visitor safety.)

Using roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices are prohibited, except in designated areas.
  • The use of roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, in-line skates, coasting vehicles, trikes and similar devices are prohibited except in the following locations under the following conditions:
    • In Cape Point, and Frisco 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 Cape Point, and Frisco campgrounds when they are closed for the season and there is little potential for conflict.)

The superintendent may designate a portion of a park area, or all or a portion of a building, structure or facility as closed to smoking when necessary to protect park resources, reduce the risk of fire, or prevent conflicts among visitor use activities. Smoking in an area or location so designated is prohibited.
  • Smoking to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) is prohibited in the following areas:
    • All government buildings
    • All lifeguarded beaches. 
(Justification: The restrictions on smoking are required and in accordance with Code of Federal Regulations, Title 41, Section, 101-20.105-3.  NPS policy memorandum 15-03 identifies that the use of ENDS will be treated as tobacco smoking.  The memorandum was made to afford all NPS employees and park visitors the same protections from exposure to nicotine and other harmful substances that may be found in ENDS vapor that are currently in place for exposure to tobacco smoke. Lifeguarded beaches represent only a small portion of the Seashore and typically receive heavy visitor use.  In an effort to make these areas enjoyable to all, smoking shall be prohibited within the boundaries of the lifeguard beach.)

(a)(2) Leaving property unattended for longer than 24 hours, except in locations where longer time periods have been designated or in accordance with conditions established by the superintendent.
  • The placement of unattended property on the beach, such as, but not limited to chairs, toys umbrellas, canopies, coolers, etc. is prohibited between sunset and sunrise.
(Justification:  This restriction ensures the safety and enjoyment of the beach by all users and is consistent with local ordinances in nearby towns. Chairs, umbrellas, canopies, coolers, etc. can be harmful to people and wildlife. People walking at night, public safety personnel who may have to drive on the beach at night, sea turtles that must make their way to nesting areas and hatchlings to the water to survive depend on safe and obstruction free beach conditions.)

(3)(i) The superintendent may close all or a portion of a public use area or public facility within a park area to the consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or to the possession of a bottle, can or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage that is open, or that has been opened, or whose seal is broken or the contents of which have been partially removed
  • The following areas are closed to the consumption, use, and possession of alcohol.
    • Bodie Island hunting area
    • 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.)

(c)(2) The superintendent must designate on a map, which must be available in the office of the superintendent and by public notice under § 1.7 of this chapter, the locations designated as available for demonstrations and the sale or distribution of printed matter.
  • The following First Amendment Assembly areas are designated on a map in the Office of the Superintendent:
            See attached maps for:                       
  • Bodie Island Lighthouse
  • Coquina Beach
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  • Buxton Beach
  • Cape Point Campground
  • Ocracoke
  • Ocracoke Campground

(a)(2) Launching or recovering a vessel, except at a launch site designated by the superintendent.The following launch sites are designated:
  • Bodie Island: All ocean and sound side areas and Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp.
  • Hatteras Island: All sound side access areas and the Cable Crossing. - All ocean side 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.
  • Ocracoke Island: NPS boat ramps and all ocean and sound side areas.
  • Launching or recovery of vessels (including non-motorized) 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 NPS boat ramps and docks 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), sound side launching in other areas of the park is recommended between May 15 to September 15.)

(b) The superintendent may designate a different speed limit upon any park road when a speed limit set forth in paragraph (a) of this section is determined to be unreasonable, unsafe or inconsistent with the purposes for which the park area was established.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 sound side off-road vehicle areas is 15 mph.  Speeds in excess of 15 mph could cause injury or damage to park resources and present danger to the public’s safety.  Documented incidents, congestion, and beach conditions do not allow for safe operation of vehicles at speeds greater than 15 mph.  The speed limit is 5 mph within 100 feet of pedestrians. 

Electric bicycles
(1) The use of an electric bicycle may be allowed on park roads, parking areas, and administrative roads and trails that are otherwise open to bicycles. The Superintendent will designate the areas open to electric bicycles, or specific classes of electric bicycles, and notify the public pursuant to 36 CFR 1.7
  • The following areas are open to all classes of electric bicycles:
    • All areas where bicycles are allowed.
(Justification: Electronic bicycle shall be treated the same as a traditional bicycle and allowed for use where traditional bicycles may be used.)

Federal Laws, NPS Policies, Enabling Legislation and Assimilated Laws

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

  • Many laws, including the 1916 Organic Act that created the National Park Service, affect all areas managed by the National Park Service.
  • Service-wide policy for the National Park Service is 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. More...
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.)


First Amendment Demonstration Areas

Bodie Island Lighthouse First Assembly Area
Bodie Island Lighthouse First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Coquina Beach Day Use Area First Amendment Assembly Area
Coquina Beach Day Use Area First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse First Amendment Assembly Area
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Satellite map view of the Buxton Beach Access first amendment assembly area.
Buxton Beach/Old Lighthouse Beach/Lifeguard Beach First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Cape Point Campground First Amendment Assembly Area
Cape Point Campground First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Ocracoke Island Visitor Center First Amendment Assembly Area
Ocracoke Island Visitor Center First Amendment Assembly Area

National Park Service

Ocracoke Campground First Amendment Assembly Area
Ocracoke Campground First Amendment Assembly Area

Last updated: March 26, 2024

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore
1401 National Park Drive

Manteo, NC 27954


252 473-2111

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