Lea-Hutaff Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lea-Hutaff Island
Lea-Hutaff Island.jpg
Lea-Hutaff Island, North Carolina
Lea-Hutaff Island is located in North Carolina
Lea-Hutaff Island
Lea-Hutaff Island
Location Pender County,
North Carolina
Coordinates 34°16′12″N 77°45′0″W / 34.27000°N 77.75000°W / 34.27000; -77.75000
Total islands 1
Area 5,641 acres (2,283 ha)[1]
Population 0

Lea-Hutaff Island (formerly Lea Island and Hutaff Island) is a 5,641-acre uninhabited barrier island and marsh system located off the coast of North Carolina.

It is separated from Topsail Island to the north by New Topsail Inlet and Figure Eight Island to the South by Rich Inlet and from the mainland by Topsail Sound. The four mile long landmass was consolidated in 1998 when Old Topsail Inlet (also known as Elmore's Inlet) that had separated Lea Island and Hutaff Island (also known as Elmore's Island) closed.[2]

Lea Island got its name from Joseph Hampton Lea, Sr., the owner of a prominent Hampstead seafood business who purchased the land from the North Carolina State Board of Education in the early 1950s. Hutaff Island's name came from George Hutaff, who bought the property in 1925.[3]

Lea Island was subdivided into approximately 40 lots that were offered for sale in the 1980s. Three houses were constructed on the island, but they were soon threatened by erosion due to the relentless southward migration of New Topsail inlet. The inlet has migrated more than six miles since it opened prior to 1730 and as of 2014 was still migrating southward at a rate of approximately 50 feet per year.[2] Due to the rapid erosion and the challenges of living off-the-grid on a remote barrier island without public utilities, and no bridge or ferry service to the mainland, many landowners who had initially bought lots and planned to build homes on Lea Island abandoned the idea. By the early 2000s efforts were underway to prevent future development on Lea Island. In partnership with Audubon North Carolina, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust started buying the remaining privately owned lots to transfer to the state. The land trust made deals with most of the owners who were willing to sell; other owners donated their lots. The acquired land was transferred to the State of North Carolina and became the Lea Island State Natural Area. Audubon bought 36 acres on Lea Island in 2010.[3]

The last of the homes on Lea-Hutaff Island was destroyed by a storm in October 2015.[4] The northern portion of Lea-Hutaff Island that was Lea Island is now mostly held by the National Audubon Society and the state government, while the Hutaff area is owned by the Hutaff family.[5] The island is only accessible by boat. The island is also a prominent nesting spot for loggerhead turtles, Least Terns, American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers and Clapper Rails.[1]


Preceded by
Topsail Beach
Beaches of Southeastern North Carolina Succeeded by
Figure Eight Island