The Outer Banks are pierced at various intervals by geographic formations called inlets. The label is a misnomer, for actually they are outlets, a necessary safety valve that allows the waters of the inland rivers and sounds to drain into the sea. Throughout recorded human history on the Banks, over 100 inlets have opened and closed usually during hurricanes or Nor'easters, which slice the narrow islands and dredge out the openings.
Oregon Inlet is no exception. While the present-day inlet is one of the most commercially vital inlets on the Banks, in 1846, it did not exist. That year, a great hurricane moved up the East Coast and over the Outer banks. According to legend, the storm caught a sailing vessel on a return trip to Edenton, NC, from Bermuda in the open. As the crew of the ship struggled to keep their vessel from wrecking in the treacherous surf, the storm grew in intensity. Finally, a gigantic surge lifted the ship on its crest, depositing it safely on a shallow sand bar where it safely rode out the rest of the storm.
The next morning, the crew emerged to find their ship stranded in Pamlico Sound. To the east, a huge cut had been carved through the narrow island to the sea where none had existed before. Amazed, they worked to free their vessel, finally floating it and returning to Edenton, where they told their tale. And it was there that the ship called Oregon lent its name to the new inlet.