NEW LANDMARK: The Bonner Bridge Pier

November 2, 2021

Well before the Outer Banks was the popular tourist destination that is today, lifestyle was much different. One of the major ways that life on the Outer Banks has changed is through the building of bridges. Prior to modern day architecture, the only way to navigate the barrier island system was by boat.

In 1963, Hatteras Island was changed forever as the first bridge was ever built connecting the island to the rest of the world. The Bonner Bridge, named after NC congressman Herbert C. Bonner, who worked with National Parks Service to get funding for such an expensive project, literally and figuratively paved a new life for islanders. With the completion of this project brought a paving of highway NC-12 on Hatteras, a rise in new home construction, and a blossoming of tourism.

For decades, the Bonner Bridge allowed millions of visitors to enjoy the beauty of the southern Outer Banks, as well as eased life on villagers, as medical care and hurricane evacuation was much more navigable . As time passed, this vital character that stitched the OBX together began weakening. Slicing through the heft shoals, hurricanes, and even surviving a dredge collision, ol’Bonner was ready to retire.

After 3 decades in the making, a new bridge emerged, taller, stronger, and ready for travelers. In 2019, the Basnight Bridge officially opened to traffic. Spanning 2.8 miles over the sparkling Oregon Inlet, this bridge and its engineers have received many accolades for it’s design. Basnight Bridge was named American Infrastructure’s Bridge of the Year for 2020.

So what happened to the iconic Bonner Bridge when the Basnight Bridge was built? A lot was done with it, actually!

  1. Remnants of the bridge are being used off-shore as artificial reefs to benefit our the local ecosystem. This an excellent means of recycling, and will help marine life flourish off of our coast.
  1. One thousand feet of the former 2.7-mile is being preserved for two reasons:
  • For use as an observation, pedestrian, and fishing pier
  • For use as a “trainer” for the inlet’s currents. By keeping a portion of the pier in place, specialists state that it will help guide currents towards the center of the inlet, easing boating navigation.

The Bonner Bridge Pier Opens to the Public:

Opened October 1, 2021, the OBX’s newest pier saw its first catches as fishers eagerly reeled in to “christen” the Bonner Bridge Pier. This project came to fruition through the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Use of the pier is totally free, however, to fish, one must have a valid North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License.

The following information comes from the National Parks Service:

Rules

Fishing is a fun and rewarding experience. However it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding fishing, and to be respectful to fellow anglers. Jumping from the pier, or climbing down on the bridge pilings is prohibited for your safety. Boats are not allowed to tie-off, or moor to the bridge structure.

All anglers must have a coastal North Carolina Fishing License to fish from the pier. All state length and catch restrictions must be adhered to.

The pier is open, free of charge, 24 hours a day.

The following are prohibited on the Bonner Pier and enforceable:

  • Pets
  • Drones
  • Glass containers
  • No vehicles are allowed outside of the parking lot, including on the pier. This includes golf carts.
  • Canopies, grills, and generators
  • Pin-rig or spearfishing
  • Bicycles, skateboards, and rollerblades
  • Fishing with more than 2 rods per angler

Etiquette

  • Be considerate of those around you and do not crowd other anglers.
  • Keep music volume low
  • Attend fishing carts and rods at all times
  • Use underhand casts
  • Unwanted fish should be released alive
  • Wear shoes or sandals
  • Recycle fishing line in the provided canisters
  • Report sturgeon and seal sightings to Cape Hatterars NS Biologists at (252) 216-6892

If You Hook a Sea Turtle

  • Contact Cape Hatteras NS biologists at (252) 216-6892
  • As you wait for a response, use a net to lift turtle to pier or land
  • Do not lift turtle by hook or pulling the line. If unable to lift try to walk the turtle to shore
  • Keep hands away from turtle’s mouth and flippers
  • When you have control of the turtle, use scissors or knife to cut line, leaving 2 feet of line to aid rescuers in de-hooking. Leave hook in place.
  • If you cannot reach a response team or are unable to lift turle cut line as close to turtle as possible

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