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Outer Banks’ top seashell-hunting beaches littered with shells after federal shutdown

Cape Lookout National Seashore is a shell collector’s paradise. National Park Service photo
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a shell collector’s paradise. National Park Service photo

Being closed a month due to the partial government shutdown had one benefit for Cape Lookout National Seashore: Its beaches are now weighted with gloriously collectible seashells.

“The shelling is excellent right now,” said a Monday Facebook post from Cape Lookout park staff.

The national park reopened Monday and the abundance of seashells is credited to a combination of factors, including weather and lower park attendance, said B. G. Horvat of the park’s staff.

“It’s colder on the water, which makes for less folks heading over,” Horvat told the Charlotte Observer. “Also, over the months of December and January, there have already been several storms that likely carried many shells ashore with their tides, currents and winds.”

Both Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national seashores closed Dec. 22, due to the partial government shutdown and were unstaffed, something that likely discouraged visitors for four weeks.

The two Outer Banks parks are part of 300 miles of barrier islands along North Carolina, and are considered among the top seashell hunting locales on the east coast, according to VisitNC.com. “Dozens of types of shells” can be found on the state’s beaches, says the site.

North Carolina’s beaches are also a prime spot for unwanted military weaponry to wash ashore, including two mines that drifted onto the sands at Cape Hatteras National Seashore last year, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Parts of SpaceX rockets have also appeared on the state’s beaches, reported the Charlotte Observer last year.

Cape Hatteras seashore it suffered multiple instances of vandalism during the shutdown, including drivers doing “donuts” in vehicles on restricted beaches.

Cape Lookout National Seashore says it was largely spared by vandals, with one exception: The Long Point Cabin Camp off-loading ramp for vehicles was broken and stayed broken through most of the shutdown, Horvat said.

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