The Outer Banks Voice – A First Crossing the ‘Jug Handle’ Bridge
A first crossing of the ‘Jug Handle’ bridge
By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice July 31, 2022
The Jug Handle Bridge ramp south on NC12. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
For anyone who wants it, it’s a two mile walk down the beach to Rodanthe. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
The parking lot beach at the north end of the bridge is as beautiful as there is on the Outer Banks. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
What was NC12 is now closed north of Rodanthe with a sign directing drivers to use the roundabout. (Photos by Kip Tabb)
I admit, curiosity got the better of me. So a day after the delayed opening of the Jug Handle Bridge to traffic – the first vehicle crossed shortly before noon on Thursday July 28 – I decided to make the trip.
After years of driving to Rodanthe and south, what is perhaps most remarkable is how unremarkable it is to get on the bridge. Coming from the north, it’s just a slight curve to the right where you are.
Driving south, the incredible expanse of Pamlico Sound is apparent. Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European explorer to stumble upon Pamlico Sound and he believed he had discovered the legendary 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 the size of North America was known, the confusion is understandable.
The pavement markings that were at the heart of the bridge’s delayed opening don’t seem all that exceptional, but NCDOT and Flatiron were adamant that what was laid initially did not meet their specifications and that a new contractor had to be found to complete the project.
What was NC12 is still there in the Mirlo subdivision at the northern end of Rodanthe. Where the road ends, a flashing sign warns drivers. “Road closed… For NC12 North… RND ABT and bridge.”
To the north, it is almost as if the strait has formed a small bay at the northern end of Rodanthe. There was a kitesurfer flying through the calm waters between the bridge and the shore. It’s unclear how it got there, as there’s probably no room below deck for such a big kite.
There is a US Fish and Wildlife parking lot at the north end of the bridge. Paved, plenty of parking, and it looks like a restroom will be part of it. There is a path 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 wonderful. Wide and sandy, it’s everything an Outer Banks beach is supposed to be. Three kilometers to the south, you can see the first houses of Rodanthe, dancing a little in the heat of a July afternoon.
Getting to the surf spots of what used to be the S-Curves isn’t going to be easy. The beach is open so if anyone wanted to put in the effort they could hike about a mile south.
There is no way to drive. The road south of the Jug Handle Bridge is closed and barriers are in place to block it. The road will be maintained for a period of time so that Cape Hatteras Electric Coop crews can access the power lines until the conduit work under the bridge connecting Hatteras Island to the grid is complete. At that time, 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 is unclear exactly what will happen to S-curves in one, two or more years. But the same forces that created one of the Outer Banks’ best surf spots will inevitably, over time, wear down the land and bring the ocean to its sound.