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Carolina Bays

Carolina Bays as shown on a U.S. Geological Survey map of the border area between Bladen and Cumberland Counties. U.S. Geological Survey, Roseboro, N.C., 1:62,500 Quadrangle N3445-W830/15, 1959.Carolina Bays are oval depressions in the earth's surface concentrated on either side of the North Carolina-South Carolina boundary. They are most numerous in Bladen County, although some are found as far away as Georgia and Maryland. Once thought to number in the hundreds of thousands, there are now fewer than 900 notable Carolina Bays, with about 80 percent of these located in North Carolina. They are oriented in a northwest-southeast direction and frequently have a sand rim on the southeast portion. Varying in size from a few hundred feet to about six miles in length, some of the Carolina Bays, such as those forming Lake Waccamaw, Bay Tree Lake, White Lake, Little Singletary Lake, and Horseshoe Lake, still hold water. Others have become bogs or pocosins of peat or black loam soil or have completely dried up. Lake Waccamaw, the largest, is about 20 feet deep, while White Lake reaches a depth of 15 feet. The depth of the peat in some of the bays that are no longer filled with water measures between 11 and 50 feet.

These unusual formations were first given special attention by geologists in 1895 after L. C. Glenn noticed the shape and other similarities they shared. Popular scientific opinion once held that the bays are the result of a shower or successive showers of meteorites hitting the earth at an angle, although other theories of their origin included ice fragments from a Hudson River basin meteor impact and the tail-fanning of a huge fish. The current formation theory holds that the wave-motion of the receding ocean created pools of standing water that were then elliptically shaped by winds blowing in the same direction for a long period of time.


Kevin Krajick, "Riddle of the Carolina Bays," Smithsonian 28 (September 1997).

Timothy Nifong, An Ecosystematic Analysis of Carolina Bays in the Coastal Plain of the Carolinas (1998).

Thomas E. Ross, Carolina Bays: An Annotated and Comprehensive Bibliography, 1844-2000 (2000).

Additional Resources:

Carolina Bays Fact Sheet,

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia: #

More Carolina Bays Information, University of Georgia:

United States Environmental Protection Agency, US Environmental Protection Agency:

Carolina Bays, U.S. Fish and Wildlife:

Origin - location: 



Please add scientific information, such as geological surveys and an assessment of size and shape related to position. What is at the rim? Where is ejecta? Did these begin under water, or were later eroded by water? What is variation of plant and animal life and variation of minerals?



You can find geological information on the Carolina Bays at the following sites: 

I also suggest looking at the references and additional resources at the end of the article for more information about the Bays.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


Could they be similar to the phumdis from India? With vast, one of a kind , foliage , Squishy to walk on and animal species abundance? Thanks


Could the Carolina Bays be caused by Hurricanes? Hurricanes typically originate in the tropics and travel up the east coast. Which could explain why the Carolina Bays stretch up the east coast of the United States and why they are oriented the same way.


I'm very new to this issue...simple question, is there any research on possible remnants of meteor or other space objects impacting the earth forming these bays? Meteors are mostly iron and shouldn't be hard to find...


The best hypothesis I have read indicated a meter probably hit a glacier on the Great Lakes and launched huge sheets of ice over the Midwest and into NC. This explained the alignment of the bays and the elevated rims on the southeast sides along with the shallow depth. Very Interesting.


Hi Milton!

Thank you for your comment! I am forwarding your question to our library's Reference Team so that they can assist you further. A member of our staff will be reaching out to you via e-mail soon!

Taylor Thompson, Government & Heritage Library


These are secondary impact craters from a comet striking the Pleistocene ice sheets above NA. They are not formed by receding water and wind over a long period of time.


your hypothesis for the formation of the Carolina Bays is erroneous.

See Antonio Zamora explanation -


Hi Kelly,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and for sharing this new information with us.  It will stay posted with the article for other viewers.  We know that there have been a number of hypotheses for the formation of the bays and Zamora's work is very illuminating.

Thank you for sharing!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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