The Albemarle is defined by water, from the fresh water rivers that roll down from the Appalachians to the brackish waters of the Sounds, the rolling surf of the ocean. No wonder that water has played such a defining role in the history of the region.
On the Outer Banks, first settlers were fishermen or wreckers. Known the world-over as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the waters off the Outer Banks are littered with the bones of thousands of ships that have net their fate here. Many an Outer banks home was built from the lumber salvaged from shipwrecks.
The Federal government contracted built lighthouses at 40 mile intervals along the Banks in the mid-nineteenth century, and the he United State Lifesaving Service established a series of stations along the banks after the Civil War. The precursor to the US Coast Guard, the Lifesaving Service of that time was a vital employer for many Outer banks families. The annals of the Service are filled with tales of bravery and sacrifice by the men who risked their lives to rescue shipwreck victims from raging storms.
In the Sound country, the waterways were the first "highways" for the region. Regular ferries and private boats plied the waters between the Outer banks and the towns of the Albemarle, delivering supplies, mail, and even the occasional important visitor--such as Orville Wright in 1900 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.
Waterfowl were once plentiful in the area, especially in Currituck Sound. Around the turn of the century, wealthy industrialist discovered that fact and constructed magnificent hunt clubs on the islands and shores that dot the sounds.
The 2.2 million square miles of estuary and tidelands make this system the largest of its kind in the country--and a nursery for a booming fishing and shell fishing business. Pleasure boaters also appreciate the variety of waters in the region, and the Intercoastal Waterway brings boaters from all over thew world to the area.