Eco Trips & Trails
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
A place that is as unique as its name, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Columbia, NC, offers visitors a chance to encounter several rare and endangered species.
You’re probably asking yourself what is a pocosin? Pocosin is a Native American word that means “swamp on a hill.” Locally, you also may hear it called a dismal. Pocosins, which are unique to eastern North Carolina, are elevated areas formed when a layer of poorly drained organic soil is deposited on top of sandy soil. The increased moisture and nutrient content of the organic soil hosts plants, which in turn provide shelter for animals.
A good place to begin your adventure is the Walter B. Jones, Sr. Center For The Sounds, which is right off the highway in Columbia, NC. The center is named for a North Carolina congressman who was instrumental in helping protect the area. The visitor-friendly center does an excellent job of putting the refuge into perspective before you venture forth, and one of the best ways to do that is down the Scuppernong River boardwalk that winds its way along the river.
Birds, animals and fish have long been the main attraction at the 110,000-acre refuge, bringing deer and duck hunters and anglers for bass, crappie and catfish. But with the opening of the visitor center, wildlife watching is becoming just as popular. Officials expect as many as 400,000 people a year to enjoy this unique habitat.
A birder’s paradise, more than 200 species of birds have been documented in the refuge. In the cooler months, you might glimpse tundra swan, snow geese or more than a dozen species of duck that are making their ways down the Atlantic Flyway. There is nothing quite like the first time you spook skittish ducks that, with a thunderous roar from their wings, leap into the air in a chain reaction.
Wildlife photographers can find more than just waterfowl and soaring bald eagles to capture on film. If you’re quiet and careful you might snap photos of an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, black bear, alligator, red or gray fox, or even the once top predator across the Southeast. Pocosin Lakes, along with adjacent refuges, are home to a project to help re-establish the endangered red wolf.
Although the refuge is easily accessible, you can find solitude here. There are more than 75 miles of roads in the refuge, 25 of which are designated as ATV trails. Hiking or biking the roads will lead you to wildlife adventures.
A map of the refuge can be downloaded at fws.gov/southeast/pubs/PocosinLakes.pdf.
From Raleigh, take U.S. 64 east to Columbia, NC. After you cross the drawbridge into Columbia, take an immediate right into the parking lot of the refuge and the Tyrrell County Visitor Center.
by Peter Anderson
by Peter Anderson
added: July 24, 2009
updated: July 31, 2009