Oregon Inlet was born out of a fierce hurricane in September 1846, when the storm surge and back drainage from the Pamlico Sound carved out an inlet that separated Pea Island and Bodie Island, forming Hatteras Island. During the storm, the side-wheel steamer Oregon, which was returning to Edenton, North Carolina from a trip to Bermuda, got caught in the storm, and got stuck on a sandbar.
When the storm passed the next morning, the Oregon found safe passage in this new inlet, which was then named Oregon Inlet after this ship which made the first trip through the new inlet.
Today, the inlet is the only outlet between Virginia and Hatteras Island, North Carolina. The inlet serves as a means to allow storm water to safely return to the ocean during hurricanes without further over-sweeping the barrier islands. The inlet is located in the northern end of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Up until 1963, with the completion of the Bonner Bridge, which extends for 2.5 miles, the only way to cross the inlet was via ferry. The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, named for a local Congressman from Washington, North Carolina, provided for a more free flow of traffic between Nags Head and Hatteras Island.
Like all inlets, it has been moving south since its initial location in 1846. It is now 2 miles south of it original location, moving an average of 66 feet per year, with some years up to 100 feet. If you look at the north end of Bonner Bridge, there is now marsh area where once was water. Because if its powerful currents and ever shifting shoals, many scientists and local mariners have labeled it as one of the most dynamic inlets on the East Coast. The Bodie Lighthouse, which was built to mark the northern end of the inlet, now stands almost four miles away. Because of this migration southward, a terminal groin was built in 1990 to stop the southern migration of the inlet and to secure the southern end of the Bonner Bridge. Continual dredging occurs to maintain the current channel. You can see the dredging ship operating most any day you pass over the Bonner Bridge.
Oregon Inlet today, however, is best known for it fishing industry. Its world class marina, the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, claims to be home to the largest and most modern fishing vessel fleet on the east coast. From the fishing center, you can charter boats for Outer Banks deep sea fishing to the Gulf Stream waters as well as inshore fishing. It, along with Hatteras and Manteo, are the three main locations in the Outer Banks charter fishing fleets.
The National Park Service also maintains a camping area on the north side of the inlet. In addition, you will also find a public boat launch facility, also maintained by the National Park Service, directly behind the fishing center.
On the south side of the inlet, there is plenty of parking, which many fisherman use. There is also the, now abandon, Oregon Inlet Coast Guard Station, which was one of the original twelve life saving stations in North Carolina.