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Carolina Bays

There are about 500,000 Carolina bays in and along the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Their anomalous forms are often overlooked from the ground, appearing as small ponds, or subtle depressions. In many cases, the bays have been physically altered beyond recognition by development or farming. Aerial and satellite imagery reveals the character of the bays’ unusual elliptical shape, and their abundance along the Pee Dee Coastal Plain landscape.

Bays can be “wet” or “dry.” Woods Bay is a “wet” bay that offers opportunities for canoeing through a black water labyrinth of bald cypress, sweet bay, and black gum trees. Farther to the east, Cartwheel Bay offers a look at a “dry” bay, a depression that retains moisture but does not remain inundated like a wet bay. Dry bays are good places to view rare, carnivorous plants such as the pitcher plant and the Venus fly trap.

Bryn Harmer, manager of Woods Bay State Natural area, explains theories behind the formation of Carolina Bays and other aspects of this most unusual landform in the this video.

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