Corbitt's National Parks
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1927: National Memorial

Size: 428 acres

2008 visitors: 527,721

Stamp: ?

Rating (1-5): Unrated

About the Site

It was here on December 17, 1903, that Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful airplane flights. They weren't the first to get a machine in the air for a few seconds, they weren't the first to go 40 feet. But their flights that day were the first successful, sustained, controlled, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine, and they blazed the trail that all successful aviators followed. Their machine demonstrated unseen control and power, and the brothers amazed people around the U.S. and Europe with flights of grace and duration. For the next seven years, the Wright Brothers were the unqualified leaders of aviation.


The Wrights chose this spot for their attempts because of the steady winds from the ocean. The day of their first flights, the 26-mph headwinds meant the plane had a groundspeed of 8 mph.

What You're Going to See

In 1932, a 60-foot-tall granite monument was built atop 90-foot-tall Kill Devil Hill, which was a shifting sand dune now entrenched with grass. There are also reconstructed living quarters and a hangar, the first flight trail area, and a Centennial Pavilion. Visitors can wander through the visitor center, engage in air touring (there's a landing strip with restricted access), examine a reproduction of the Wright flyer and glider, and walk over the first-flight grounds to the monument.

Personal Observations

This would be a fun Memorial to visit, I think ...

Getting There

From Raleigh, take US 64 east (through Rocky Mount) for about 173 miles to Manns Harbor. Continue on US 64 across the water to the cape, and turn north. The Memorial is fourteen miles after Manns Harbor.

Nearby Attractions

Fort Raleigh National Historical Site is about 10 miles to the south, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore is about 40 miles to the south. Colonial National Historical Park is about 90 miles to the north, in Virginia.