The mystery of the Carolina bays reached a fever pitch in the 1950s, when a respected University of North Carolina geologist named William Prouty steadfastly contended that the bays were a result of a meteor or comet colliding with the Earth over 12,000 years ago. This idea made quite an impact, so to speak, and debate continued for years about the cosmic nature of Carolina bays. One popular theory links the extinction event known as the Younger Dryas extinction (the same one responsible for wiping out the mammoth) to the formation of Carolina bays, suggesting that the wind and debris created from a comet colliding with the Earth near the Great Lakes region caused the depressions that became the bays.
While some are protected as state or national parks, many of the Carolina Bays are already gone. Over the years, thousands of Carolina Bays have been drained and turned into farmland, recreational spaces, or converted to roadways – erasing these unique geological and ecological formations – and taking the mystery of their origin with them.