Pamlico Sound

Pamlico Sound (/ˈpæmlɪkoʊ/ PAM-lik-oh) in North Carolina in the US is the largest lagoon along the North American East Coast, extending 80 mi (130 km) long and 15 to 20 miles (24 to 48 km) wide. It is part of a large, interconnected network of lagoon estuaries that includes Albemarle Sound, Currituck Sound, Croatan Sound, Pamlico Sound, Bogue Sound, Core Sound, and Roanoke Sound.[1][2] Together, these sounds, known as the Albemarle-Pamlico sound system, comprise the second largest estuary in the United States, covering over 3,000 sq. mi. of open water.[3](Chesapeake Bay is the largest.) The Pamlico Sound is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Outer Banks, a row of low, sandy barrier islands that include Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Albemarle-Pamlico Sound is one of nineteen great waters recognized by the America's Great Waters Coalition.[4]

Pamlico Sound with the southern Outer Banks. Orbital photo courtesy of NASA.


Pamlico Sound is connected to the north with Albemarle Sound through passages provided by the Roanoke Sound and Croatan Sound. Core Sound is located at the Pamlico's narrow southern end.[1][2] It is fed by the Neuse and Pamlico rivers (the latter of which is the estuary of the Tar River) from the west, and from the east by Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, and Ocracoke Inlet, which also provide passage to the Atlantic Ocean.[5] The salinity of the sound averages 20 ppt, compared to an average coastal salinity of 35 ppt in the Atlantic and 3 ppt in the Currituck Sound, which is located north of the Albemarle Sound.[6]

The sound and its ocean inlets are noted for wide expanses of shallow water and occasional shoaling, making the area hazardous for larger vessels. While the deepest hole of the estuary (26') can be found in the Pamlico Sound,[7] depths generally range from 5 to 6 feet.[8] In addition, the shallow waters are susceptible to wind and barometric pressure-driven tidal fluctuations. This effect is amplified on the tributary rivers, where water levels can change by as much as two feet in three hours when winds are aligned with the rivers' axes and are blowing strongly.[1][2]

History and current use

In March 1524, Italian Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano mistook the sound for the Pacific Ocean because of its wide expanse and separation from the Atlantic Ocean by the Outer Banks barrier islands.[5] The sound was named for the Pamlico Native American tribe that lived along the sound's mainland banks and who were referred to as the Pamouik by the Raleigh expeditions (circa 1584).[9]

Three locations of Pamlico Sound in the Outer Banks between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear were once under serious consideration by the United States Atomic Energy Commission as an atomic bomb test site during the late 1940s and early 1950s.[10][11] Portions of Pamlico Sound are used as a bombing and training range for Camp Lejeune.[12]

In 1987, Congress declared the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound an "estuary of national significance."[3] For vacationers to the Outer Banks, the Pamlico Sound is a "watersports playground" providing opportunities for fishing and crabbing, boating, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, parasailing, paddleboarding, and more.[5] In 2012, the economic impact of tourism to the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound area exceeded $1.3 billion.[3]

The sound also supports local commercial fishing, crabbing, shrimping, clamming, and oystering. 90% of North Carolina's commercial fishing catches are attributed to the Pamlico Sound, generating almost $100 million per year.[13]


Along the coastal areas are numerous waterfowl nesting sites, including Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks, and Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge on the mainland.[1][2] Dolphins and sea turtles[14] are abundant,[15] with occasional visits by seals such as harp seal in early January and February. Many other cetaceans including rare species such as fin whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, and orcas are present off Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras. Whales such as Atlantic gray (now extirpated),[16] North Atlantic right (critically endangered), and North Atlantic humpback were historically common. Endangered species such as leatherback turtles,[17] great white sharks, and basking sharks are also known to visit the sound as well.[6]

The sound also sports a variety of fish populations including red drum, speckled trout, flounder, striped bass (known as rockfish by local populations), croaker, spot, pompano, kingfish, and bluefish. In addition, shellfish populations including blue crab, shrimp, oysters, and clams are healthy.[7]


Pamlico Sound from Buxton sunset

A sunset on Pamlico Sound as seen from The Inn on Pamlico Sound in Buxton, North Carolina.


Sunset over the Sound just south of Salvo, North Carolina.


  1. ^ a b c d "Albemarle-Pamlico Sound". University of Rhode Island.
  2. ^ a b c d "Pamlico Sound". Outer Banks.
  3. ^ a b c "NCDEQ - Fast Facts". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  4. ^ National Wildlife Federation (August 18, 2010). "America's Great Waters Coalition". Retrieved 2011-18-20. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ a b c "Pamlico Sound -". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  6. ^ a b Schwartz J.F.. 2010. BASKING AND WHALE SHARKS OF NORTH CAROLINA. Journal of the North Carolina Academy of Science, 126(3), 2010, pp. 84–87. Retrieved on December 10. 2014
  7. ^ a b "The Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary | Outer Banks Catch". Archived from the original on 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  8. ^ "Pamlico Sound -". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Pamlico Indians | NCpedia". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  10. ^ Project Nutmeg Ocracoke Newsletter; (April 21, 2012); Village Craftsman; retrieved: December 12, 2016.
  11. ^ Excerpts from documents and books regarding the decision to locate the test site in Nevada; Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  12. ^ Military releases information on continued exercises going on in area; Retrieved: December 10, 2016.
  13. ^ "North Carolina's blue crab dilemma - Commercial Fishing Data". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  14. ^ Epperly P.S.. Braun J.. Veishlow A.. 1995. Sea Turtles in Noerh Carolina Waters JSTOR 2386782. the Conservation Biology Vol. 9, No. 2 (Apr., 1995), pp. 384-394. Retrieved on December 10. 2014
  15. ^ Donnelly M.. 2007. Sea Turtles and North Carolina Inshore Fisheries Archived 2014-12-14 at the Wayback Machine. VELADOR - the Sea Turtle Conservancy Newspaper. Issue 2 (2007). The Sea Turtle Conservancy. Retrieved on December 10. 2014
  16. ^ Regional Species Extinctions - Examples of regional species extinctions over the last 1000 years and more. Archived 2011-04-25 at Archive-It. Retrieved on December 10. 2014
  17. ^ Young N..2006. GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING APOTENTIAL BIOLOGICAL REMOVAL (PBR)FRAMEWORK FOR MANAGING SEA TURTLEBYCATCH IN THE PAMLICO SOUNDFLOUNDER GILLNET FISHERY. Master of Environmental Management degree in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences of Duke University. Retrieved on December 10. 2014

External links

Coordinates: 35°18′46″N 75°56′14″W / 35.31278°N 75.93722°W

Cedar Island, North Carolina

Cedar Island is an island and a small coastal unincorporated community in eastern North Carolina. It is located in Carteret County. It was populated with local Native Americans prior to the arrival of European settlers. It is also the location of the state ferry transportation system dock where travel can be made across Pamlico Sound to the island and village of Ocracoke in Hyde County.

Croatan Sound

Croatan Sound is an inlet in Dare County, North Carolina. It connects Pamlico Sound with Albemarle Sound, and is bordered to the east by Roanoke Island; Roanoke Sound is on the other side of the island. Its name comes from the Croatan Indians who once inhabited the area. The Croatan Sound is crossed by two bridges, the older William B. Umstead Bridge, and the newer Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 64.

Eno River

The Eno River, named for the Eno Indians who once lived along its banks, is the initial tributary of the Neuse River in North Carolina, USA.

The Eno rises in Orange County. The river's watershed occupies most of Orange and Durham counties. The Eno converges with the Flat and Little Rivers to form the Neuse at Falls Lake, which straddles Durham and Wake counties.

The Eno is notable for its beauty and water quality, which has been preserved through aggressive citizen efforts. Though barely more than forty miles from its source to its convergence at the Neuse, the Eno features significant stretches of natural preservation. Through the combined efforts of the North Carolina State Parks System, local government, and private non-profit preservation groups, over 5,600 acres (23 km2) of land have been protected in the Eno Basin, including Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Eno River State Park, West Point on the Eno (a Durham City Park), and Penny's Bend State Nature Preserve (managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden).

Permitted recreational activities include swimming, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and backcountry camping. Individual and group campsites are available.

Flat River (North Carolina)

The Flat River is a river in southern Person County, North Carolina and a portion of Durham County, North Carolina.The river flows from Person County to combine with the Little and Eno rivers to flow into the Neuse River. The river is the namesake for the township called Flat River, which has the highest census total of the 9 communities in Person County because it is mostly a combination of Hurdle Mills and Timberlake through which the river passes. North Carolina State University maintains a research forest within its watershed. Lake Michie, the principal reservoir for the city of Durham, is located on the lower reaches of the Flat River.

Hatteras Inlet

Hatteras Inlet is an estuary in North Carolina, located along the Outer Banks, separating Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. It connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pamlico Sound. Hatteras Inlet is located entirely within Hyde County.

Hatteras Island

Hatteras Island (historically, Croatoan Island) is a barrier island located off the North Carolina coast. Dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound, it runs parallel to the coast, forming a bend at Cape Hatteras. It is part of North Carolina's Outer Banks and includes the towns of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras. It contains the largest part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It is almost entirely in Dare County, North Carolina, but there is a very small sliver of about 45 acres (0.18 km2) which extends southwest into Hyde County.The island is one of the longest in the contiguous United States, measuring 42 miles (68 km) along a straight line from end to end, or roughly 50 miles (80 km) along the curve of the land.

Hatteras Island is known for sport fishing, surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding, and is known as "the blue marlin capital of the world".

According to the United States Census Bureau the island has a land area of 85.56 km2 (33.03 sq mi) and a population of 4,001 as of the 2000 census. It lies in parts of Kinnakeet Township and Hatteras Township in Dare County, and Ocracoke Township in Hyde County.

Neuse River

The Neuse River is a river rising in the Piedmont of North Carolina and emptying into Pamlico Sound below New Bern. Its total length is approximately 275 miles (443 km), making it the longest river entirely contained in North Carolina. The Trent River joins the Neuse at New Bern. Its drainage basin, measuring 5,630 square miles (14,600 km2) in area, also lies entirely inside North Carolina. It is formed by the confluence of the Flat and Eno rivers prior to entering the manmade, artificial Falls Lake reservoir in northern Wake County. Its fall line shoals, known as the Falls of the Neuse, lie submerged under the waters of Falls Lake.

New Inlet

New Inlet was an inlet along the Outer Banks of North Carolina joining Pamlico Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. It had not existed since 1945 before Hurricane Irene temporarily re-opened the inlet in 2011.

Norfolk Southern Railway (1942–1982)

The Norfolk Southern Railway (reporting mark NS) was the final name of a railroad that ran from Norfolk, Virginia, southwest and west to Charlotte, North Carolina. It was acquired by the Southern Railway in 1974, which merged with the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1982 to form the current Norfolk Southern Railway.

In May 1920, the NS leased the Durham and South Carolina Railroad, which became its Durham branch. This would be the largest the NS would become at 942 route miles. At the end of 1970, it operated 624 miles of road on 801 miles of track; that year it reported 710 million ton-miles of revenue freight.

North Carolina's 3rd congressional district

North Carolina's 3rd congressional district is located on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. It covers the Outer Banks and the counties adjacent to the Pamlico Sound.

The district is currently vacant, having been most recently represented by the late Walter B. Jones Jr., a Republican. Jones had been the district's representative from 1995 until his death in February 2019. In 2008, he defeated Democrat Craig Weber for reelection, and was challenged in 2010 by former Chair of the Pitt County Democratic Party Johnny Rouse, whom he defeated by a vote of 72% to 26% (141,978 votes to 50,600). In 2012, he was challenged by Frank Palombo, the former New Bern Police Chief, for the Republican Party nomination. The winner of the Republican primary then faced Marine Corps Veteran Erik Anderson in the general election.

Ocracoke Inlet

Ocracoke Inlet is an estuary located in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, United States that separates Ocracoke Island and Portsmouth Island. It connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pamlico Sound. It is the southern terminus of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the northern terminus of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The inlet is approximately one mile across, but changes daily.

Oregon Inlet

Oregon Inlet is an inlet along North Carolina's Outer Banks. It joins the Pamlico Sound with the Atlantic Ocean and separates Bodie Island from Pea Island, which are connected by the 2.5 mile Herbert C. Bonner Bridge that spans the inlet. As one of the few access points to the ocean along this stretch of coast, Oregon Inlet is a major departure point for charter fishing trips, with a nearby harbor serving as the base for many large boats that travel miles out towards the Gulf Stream almost every day. The inlet is also the location of a U.S. Coast Guard station.

Pamlico Capital

Pamlico Capital, formerly Wachovia Capital Partners and previously First Union Capital Partners, is an independent private equity firm focused on growth capital and leveraged buyout investments in middle-market companies in the business services, technology services, telecommunications and healthcare industries.

The firm, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was founded in 1988 as the private equity investment arm of First Union Corporation. The firm has invested approximately $3.8 billion in more than 200 companies since inception across two funds.

The firm is named for the Pamlico Sound, which is located in North Carolina.

Pamlico River

The Pamlico River is a tidal river that flows into Pamlico Sound, in North Carolina in the United States. It is formed by the confluence of the Tar River and Tranters Creek.The historic Tuscarora tribe, an Iroquoian-language group originally from western New York, had been well established in North Carolina, including along the Pamlico River, before European contact. The encroachment of settlers and their selling Tuscarora into slavery increased tensions between the groups. These led to the Tuscarora War (1711-1715), in which the Tuscarora led by Chief Hancock were defeated. Most Tuscarora migrated to New York, where they were sponsored by the Oneida and by 1722 were admitted to the Iroquois Confederacy as the Sixth Nation. Most of the survivors in North Carolina were removed to a reservation in Bertie County, North Carolina in 1718. Since European contact, they had lost much population due to lack of immunity to new infectious diseases, followed by the casualties of war.

English, Irish, and Scottish settlers moved to the region from Virginia for larger tracts of cheaper land. A cluster of German and Swiss settlers also moved to the region from the southeastern settlement of New Bern, North Carolina. They established such towns as Washington and Bath. The latter was home and operating base for the pirate Blackbeard, who was finally pardoned by Governor Charles Eden. Most settlers engaged in tobacco farming in the Pamlico/Tar River basin, importing numerous enslaved Africans to work on the labor-intensive crop. For years the river corridor remained somewhat of a lawless backwater.

The Pamlico River was a key strategic position during the American Civil War. The river is the site of the sunken Union warship, USS Picket. The U.S. Route 17 Bridge, which connects Washington, North Carolina with nearby Chocowinity, splits the name of the river. That portion heading westward upstream is called the Tar River.

Pungo River

The Pungo River is a river in eastern North Carolina, United States. It originally began in the Great Dismal Swamp in Washington County, North Carolina; the upper part of the river has since been supplanted by the Pungo River Canal, dug in the 1950s to improve drainage of local farmland. The river flows southeast and forms part of the boundary between Beaufort County and Hyde County. The river then widens dramatically, turns west, and flows past Belhaven, North Carolina before joining the Pamlico River near Pamlico Sound.

A 21-mile (33.8 km) canal connects the Pungo River with the Alligator River to its east.

Roanoke Sound

The Roanoke Sound is a sound that separates Roanoke Island from Bodie Island of the Outer Banks. To the north of the Roanoke Sound lies the Albemarle Sound and to the south lies the Pamlico Sound. One bridge, which carries U.S. Highway 64, crosses the sound.

In a historical context, this was also the name first given to the present-day body of water known as the Albemarle Sound. That body of water was initially named the Sea of Rawnocke (Roanoke), or Roanoke Sea, by European explorers and later appeared on maps as the Roanoke Sound and then the Carolina River before it was renamed for George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. North Carolina’s earliest European settlements were established in this area.

South River (Neuse River estuary)

The South River is a tidal estuary, approximately 8 mi (13 km) long in Carteret County, North Carolina in the United States.

It flows NNE and empties into the estuary of the Neuse River near its entrance into Pamlico Sound. The town of South River sits on western side near its mouth.

Tar River

The Tar River is a river that is approximately 346 kilometers (215 mi) long, of northeast North Carolina flowing generally southeast to an estuary of Pamlico Sound. The Tar River becomes the tidal Pamlico River once it underpasses the U.S. Highway 17 Bridge in Washington, North Carolina.

North Carolina was originally a naval stores colony—that is, the blanket of long leaf pines that covered the coastal plain was used by the British Navy for ships' masts and the pine pitch was used to manufacture tar caulking for vessels. The river derives its name from its historic use as a major route for tar-laden barges as they headed to the sea. The city of Tarboro is on the banks of the river. Recent research conducted by East Carolina University, Greenville and Pitt County historians has uncovered documentation noting that before the Civil War, the North Carolina Legislature had appropriated funds to construct dams and locks on the Tar River in an attempt to facilitate almost year round navigation for the farm products and naval stores shipping plus passenger boats which were travelling between Tarboro, through Greenville to Washington.

Among the towns and cities along its course are Louisburg, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, and Greenville. The village of Old Sparta was formerly an important riverport on the Tar, but has declined in the 20th century.

One account of the significance of the river's name comes from the Civil War.

It may have been inspired by an incident back in North Carolina. As the Confederates prepared to evacuate Washington, NC, in March 1862, they sent squads up and down the Tar River to destroy all the stocks of cotton and naval stores which had been prepared by the small farms along the river, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Union soldiers. At Taft’s store they found over 1,000 barrels of turpentine and tar. The amount was too large to burn, as it would take several houses with it. So the barrels were rolled into the river, where the hoops were cut in two and the contents dumped into the river. Three months later, in June, four hundred Union prisoners of war were sent from Salisbury, NC to Washington, NC, to be exchanged for Confederate prisoners. Before coming into Washington, the soldiers asked permission to bathe in the river and clean themselves up. Guards were posted along the river banks, and the prisoners were allowed to strip then wade into the river to wash. Instead, they stirred up the river bottom so much that the tar smeared their bodies completely, each man coming out of the water with a stick to scour the tar off their bodies and legs. One Confederate yelled out, "Hello boys, what’s the matter?" The reply from the disgusted Yankee soldier was, "We have heard of Tar River all our lives but never believed that there really was any such place, but damned if we haven’t found it, the whole bed of it is tar!"

The river was strongly affected by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and caused much flooding in the area. The Tar River suffered the worst flooding from the hurricane, exceeding 500-year flood levels along its lower stretches; it crested 24 feet (7.3 m) above flood stage. When the river flooded in 1999, the height in Greenville was approximately 30 ft.

The river was again affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It crested as much as 24.5 feet (7.5 m) above flood stage in some areas for up to 3 days.

Trent River (North Carolina)

The Trent River is a fresh water river of the coastal plain region of eastern North Carolina. It flows in an easterly direction from its origin approximately 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Kinston, North Carolina and traverses portions of Lenoir County, Jones County and Craven County prior to emptying into the Neuse River at New Bern, North Carolina. Trenton and Pollocksville are small towns that lie along its course. The river measures 720 yards (660 m) at its widest point and is fed by numerous fresh water branches and creeks along its length.

Places adjacent to Pamlico Sound
Protected areas

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