Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge

Bell Island Pier


The Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge borders the northern shoreline of the Pamlico Sound, extending both east and west from the town of Swanquarter (also spelled Swan Quarter) in rural Hyde County.  This refuge has a total area of 16,411 acres, most of which is accessible only by water.

Swanquarter NWR (Bell Island Pier in Rose Bay, upper left )

The only road access to Swanquarter NWR is Bell Island Road, just west of the town of Swanquarter, off Hwy 264.  Bell Island Road is a well maintained two mile long gravel road that ends at a small parking area adjacent to Bell Island fishing pier.  There are no hiking  trails (other than Bell Island Road) in the refuge.

Bell Island Pier (1000 feet long)

Popular activities for visitors include fishing, boating, crabbing, bird watching, and nature photography.  Walking and cycling are also permitted on Bell Island Road.  

The refuge is open from dawn to dusk, daylight use only.

Flora and Fauna

Swanquarter NWR is home to many species of birds, including the great blue heron, osprey, and the bald eagle.  Robins can be seen in substantial numbers, as well as sparrows and red-winged blackbirds.

The primary animals in the refuge include the American alligator, black bear, and white tailed deer. The refuge does not allow hunting bears or deer, although waterfowl hunting is allowed during the late Fall in roughly six thousand acres of specified marshland.

Exploring Swanquarter NWR

Quincey and I very much enjoyed our visit to Swanquarter NWR.  We learned a lot about this area from talking with some of the locals.    Without exception, all the children waited their turn to pet Quincey.  He’s a very friendly little dog, who likes to cheerfully greet everyone who crosses our path.

Quincy at end of Bell Island Pier
Quincey at end of pier

Visitors should assume that there are no restrooms at the parking lot, which is adjacent to the pier.  There was a dilapidated porta potty on site, but it was unusable.  

Also be advised that gas stations are few and far between in this part of Hyde County.  I recommend that you gas up in Washington or Belhaven (assuming you are driving from west to east) if you plan on an extended exploration of this area.  As far as I know, the closest gas station to Swanquarter NWR is in Fairfield, just north of Lake Mattamuskeet on Hwy 94.



Camping Options

There are at least three campgrounds within reasonable driving distance of the Swanquarter NWR:

All three of these campgrounds allow both tent and RV camping, with water and 50A/30A electrical power.  I opted to camp at Carawans near Lake Mattamuskeet, as that campground was located near several additional sites of interest, as indicated on the map below. 
map of eastern nc


Amateur Radio operation from Swanquarter NWR

The parking area adjacent to the Bell Island pier has limited parking–sufficient for about 10-12 cars, max.  As such, there is minimal space for the typical table + chair + ground mounted antenna setup used by many activators.  For this location, I highly recommend operating from one’s vehicle, with the antenna mounted to the vehicle.  An EFHW vertical 100% supported by a telescoping mast could also be used  at this location, if supported by one of the commonly available hitch mount receivers or drive on mast mounts, as long as no guy wires were used.  Also, as a general rule, no wires should be attached to a tree in a National Wildlife Refuge.

The following photo shows my antenna of choice for restricted area activations.  This antenna system consists of a Little Tar Heel II antenna loading coil, with a MFJ-1979 (17 foot) telescoping whip.


AA4XX at Swanquarter NWR
AA4XX Little Tar Heel II Resonator with 17' Telescoping Vertical Antenna


Just in case there are any questions about this antenna’s ability to get the job done, below is an excerpt from my log for the first few contacts from Swanquarter NWR.  The first logged contact, CE3FZL is from Chile. The second contact, ON3EA is from Belgium. Contact number four, KL7AC is from Alaska. Contact number five, 7N1FRE is from Japan.  These were morse code contacts, using only 30 watts of power.


AA4XX log excerpt
AA4XX log excerpt

One of the main responsibilities of an activator is to log each station with whom he or she makes contact.  The completed log is then submitted to the either World Wide Flora & Fauna (WWFF), Parks on the Air (POTA) or both organizations.  Each red line on the map below represents one of the 161 total contacts made from Swanquarter NWR during my activation on June 2, 2024.

AA4XX at Swanquarter NWR QSO Map

Quincey and I really enjoyed our visit to Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge.  I hope this blog might encourage you to seek out places like this to explore.  

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  I invite you to leave a comment in the form at the bottom of this page.

The following info provides specific details for amateur radio operators:

Swanquarter NWR is open from dawn to dusk, daylight use only.

WWFF and POTA Reference numbers for Swanquarter NWR:

KFF-0419   US-0419

Maidenhead Grid Location:  FM15UJ

NC County: Hyde

Road condition:  Bell Island road is a well maintained gravel road from the US-264 entrance to the Bell Island parking area, suitable for car or truck.  There is no real parking space alongside the road until you get to the end near the pier.  There are no other roads in the refuge.

AA4XX Op Site was at the parking area adjacent to Bell Island Pier:

(Lat 35.43573   Long -76.39888)

Internet Access for Spotting: Marginal internet access, but I was able to spot to both WWFF and POTA with iphone (Verizon)

Rating for this Reference: 10 (Excellent)

Nearby Lodging:

Rose Bay Preserve (5.5 mi west)

Carawans Cabins-Campground and RV Sites (21 mi. east)

Goose Creek State Park (approx 62 mi. west)

Swanquarter eQSL Card
AA4XX at Swanquarter NWR eQSL

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