The black water river gets its inky coloring from the natural tannin of the many cypress gum trees along its banks. It is one of only four North Carolina rivers to be federally designated a National Wild and Scenic River and the only black water river in the state which has received this designation. Picnicking facilities, boat ramp, primitive camping and bathroom facilities are available. Pre-registration is required for use of camping sites. Rangers hold scheduled educational programs.
The parks recreation activities are centered at Princess Ann Access and Chalk Banks Access. At Princess Ann, a bend in the river opens to a long straight vista that beacons paddlers to take a ride. From the observation deck, visitors can view a reverse flow area named Griffin's Whirl. Chalk Bank Access offers a 3 mile loop trail by wetlands habitat and through a mixed pine and hardwood forest.