By Kip Tabb Courtesy of Outer Banks Voice on July 31, 2022
I admit it, curiosity got the better of me. So one day after the delayed opening of the Jug Handle Bridge for traffic — the first vehicle traveled across shortly before noon on Thursday, July 28 — I decided to make the journey.
After years of driving to Rodanthe and points south, what may be most remarkable is how unremarkable it is getting on the bridge. Coming from the north, it’s just a gentle curve to the right you’re on.
Driving south, the amazing expanse of Pamlico Sound is apparent. Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European explorer to stumble on Pamlico Sound and he thought he had discovered the fabled passage to the Pacific Ocean. For about a mile and a half, or maybe two miles looking west, there is no land in sight. And 500 years ago, before there was any knowledge of the size of North America, the confusion is understandable.
The pavement markings that were at the heart of the delayed opening of the bridge don’t seem all that exceptional, but NCDOT and Flatiron were adamant that what was put down initially did not meet their specifications and a new contractor had to be found to finish the project.
What was NC12 is still there in the Mirlo subdivision on the north end of Rodanthe. Where the road ends there’s a blinking sign telling drivers. “Road Closed…For NC12 North…RND ABT & Bridge.”
Heading north it’s almost as though the sound has formed a small bay on the north end of Rodanthe. There was a kiteboarder flying across the calm waters between the bridge and shoreline. It’s unclear how he or she got there, because there probably isn’t room under the bridge for a kite that large.
There’s a US Fish and Wildlife parking lot at the north end of the bridge. Paved, plenty of parking and it looks as though a restroom is going to be a part of it. There is a trail that leads over the dune to the beach. The dunes are high in this area and the trail to the top is steep, but the climb is worth it.
The beach is beautiful. Wide and sandy, it’s everything an Outer Banks beach is supposed to be. Two miles south, the first homes of Rodanthe can be seen, dancing a bit in the heat of a July afternoon.
Getting to the surf breaks of what used to be the S Curves isn’t going to be easy. The beach is open, so if someone wanted to put the effort into it, they could hike a mile or so south.
There’s no way to drive. The road south of Jug Handle Bridge is closed and there are barriers in place sealing it off. The road will be maintained for a little while so Cape Hatteras Electric Coop crews can access power lines until work running conduit under the bridge connecting Hatteras Island to the grid is completed. At that point, the road will be removed and nature will take its course.
That’s probably when we’ll learn just how good the Jug Handle Bridge really is. It’s not clear exactly what will happen at the S Curves one, two or many years into the future. But the same forces that have created one of the best surf breaks on the Outer Banks will inevitably, over time, wear the land down and bring the ocean to the sound.