skip to main content | skip to footer
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - Fast Facts

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

Fast Facts

about the Albemarle-Pamlico Watershed


 Geography |  Rivers and Streams | Fisheries and Wildlife | Economy | History |



  • There are 9,115 miles of total estuarine shoreline in the Albemarle-Pamlico region. 8,136 miles are unmodified natural shorelines.1,2
  • Carteret County has 1,738 miles of estuarine shoreline, the longest in the Albemarle-Pamlico region. Currituck and Dare County are also medalists, with 1,106 and 969 miles respectively. 1,2
  • The area of the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed is 31,478 square miles. The APNEP management region is 23,803 square miles of area, which excludes parts of the Roanoke and White Oak basins.3
  • Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in North Carolina at 40,000 acres. Nearby Lake Phelps is the second largest.5,6
  • With more than 3,000 square miles of open water, the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary is the second largest estuarine complex in the lower 48 states.7
  • There are approximately 4.8 million acres of farmland in the APNEP region.8,9
  • There are 1.4 million acres of land under conservation management in the APNEP region.10
  • N.C. has greater acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation than any state on the Atlantic coast except Florida, and 99% of that acreage is in the Albemarle-Pamlico embayment. In APNEP's latest survey 138,000 acres were visible from the air, and nearly 200,000 acres are estimated to exist.13,14
  • There are approximately 2.8 million acres of wetlands in the Albemarle-Pamlico Basin, down 130K since 1992.15
  • The Albemarle-Pamlico estuary includes 8 major sounds – Albemarle, Pamlico, Back, Bogue, Core, Croatan, Currituck, and Roanoke. 3
  • The geographic center of the APNEP watershed is at 36.150218, -77.714994. This place is halfway between Enfield and Whitakers in North Carolina, just east of I-95. 18
  • Wind off the Albemarle-Pamlico sound averages 9-10 mph. 15
  • Merchants Millpond State Park contains a grove of Bald Cypress trees that are 800 years old. 22
  • 16,000 farms covering 4.8 million acres are in the Albemarle-Pamlico region.8,9


Rivers and Streams

  • There are 9,299 miles of freshwater rivers and streams in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine ecosystem.4
  • The Roanoke River floodplain contains the largest and least-disturbed bottomland forest ecosystem in the eastern slope of North America, and the Albemarle-Pamlico region includes the greatest extent of pocosin wetlands in the world. 11,12
  • Six river basins flow in to the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary: Chowan, Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, and Pasquotank and White Oak. 16
  • Of the 17 river basins found in NC, only 4 are contained entirely within state boundaries.17
  • The largest river basin in the Albemarle-Pamlico region is the Roanoke. 12
  • Water from 43 NC counties and 38 VA county and cities drain into the APNEP estuaries. 3
  • The White Oak & Chowan Rivers are called blackwater rivers because tannins dye the water the tint of tea/coffee. 24
  • 3.9 million people live in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed. 2.9 million live in North Carolina, with just over 1 million in Virginia. The most populous river basin in the watershed is the Neuse.15


Fisheries and Wildlife

  • Half of the juvenile fish habitat from Maine to Florida is represented by the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary.26
  • About 90% of the United States' recreational fisheries catch and 75% of its commercial catch spend time in estuaries. 27
  • The Albemarle-Pamlico estuary is among the few places where Atlantic sturgeon continue to produce young on an annual basis.28
  • The Albemarle Sound was the epicenter of the once-prolific, and potentially restorable, herring fishery.29
  • As a result of captive breeding programs, the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus) was reintroduced to the Albemarle Peninsula. It is the only place in the world where red wolves can be seen in the wild.30
  • Striped bass can lay as many as 2 million eggs during spring spawning.31
  • More than 220 bird species can be found in the Roanoke floodplain.12
  • North Carolina issued 22,533 commercial fishing licenses in 2013.32
  • A recent study found 897 obstacles to fish migration in the Chowan basin alone. Dams prevent fish from swimming upstream to mating areas, but restoration efforts can help.33
  • The West Indian Manatee is seen occasionally in NC estuaries from June to October.34, 35
  • Female shortnose sturgeon can live as long as 67 years.36
  • The endangered Tar River spinymussel is only found in small sections of the Tar River basin.37
  • Anadromous fish like shad and sturgeon reproduce in rivers but live their lives in oceans.38
  • Most eels are catadromous, spending their lives in fresh or brackish water but spawning in the sea.39
  • Fish need about 5 parts per million of dissolved oxygen to thrive in aquatic environments.40
  • Aquatic plant species are important because they release oxygen into the marine ecosystem.41
  • Overgrowth of algae can cause anoxia - lack of oxygen in water - which can lead to fish kills.42 
  • Non-native Phragmites australis, an invasive grass found, is a problematic and aggressive species in the region. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge reported 7,567 acres in 2010.15
  • Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are found in all basins of the Albemarle-Pamlico region.43
  • The Croatan National Forest has the largest population of carnivorous plants of any National Forest.19



  • Recreational fisheries have a $1.6 billion impact on North Carolina's economy.45
  • Saltwater fishing created over 17,000 N.C. jobs in 2010.45
  • Commercial fisheries had a $116 million impact on North Carolina's economy in 2012.46
  • The estimated economic impact of seafood dealers on North Carolina’s economy is $255 million.47
  • In 2012 the economic impact of tourism in the Albemarle-Pamlico’s four Oceanside counties—Dare, Carteret, Currituck and Hyde—exceeded $1.37 billion.48
  • The Intracoastal Waterway passes through the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary, which is critical for shipping products across state lines. The ICW traverses the Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds for a distance of 214 miles.49
  • The total market value of products sold from farmland in the Albemarle-Pamlico region was $4.88 billion in 2012.8,9
  • Beaufort has the highest value of delivered timber in North Carolina's portion of the Albemarle-Pamlico region. 44



  • In 1999, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet to prevent damage by the Atlantic Ocean.50
  • The Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary was named an estuary of national significance by Congress in 1987.3
  • The national estuary program began in 1987, with APNEP as a charter member.51
  • The first English settlement in America was on Roanoke Island in 1584.52
  • George Washington himself formed the company that drained the Great Dismal Swamp in 1763.53
  • Pocosin is the Algonquin Native American word for swamp on a hill".54
  • Estuaries are among the earth's most productive habitats, but are increasingly affected by impacts of human population growth on our coasts.55
  • 235 tropical cyclones have passed within 150 miles of Swan Quarter N.C. since 1950.15



    26 Burkholder, J., Eggleston, D., Glasgow, H., Brownie, C., Reed, R., Janowitz, G., . . . (2004). Comparative impacts of two major hurricane seasons on the Neuse River and western Pamlico Sound ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(25), 1-6. Retrieved from

    33 Carpenter, D., Brinn, L., Colchero, F., . . . Weaver, J. (2010). An improved model to identify and prioritize the preservation and restoration of river herring habitat. In M. Doll, R. Ferrell & S. Pearsall (Eds.), River herring habitats: Searching the Chowan River Basin (pp. 54-55). Environmental Defense Fund.


Web Content Display Web Content Display

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.