Neuse River Basin

By: William Levi Cline, and Adam Thomas Gillaitt


The Neuse River Basin is located in Eastern North Carolina. It covers the following counties: Person, Orange, Durham, Granville, Wake, Wilson, Johnston, Wayne, Greene, Pitt, Lenoir, Craven, Jones, and Pamlico.

The River Basin

After it's 22 mile beginning, at Falls Lake Reservoir Dam, in Durham, the Neuse River flows freely as a freshwater river all the way to New Bern, where it then turns into Brackish water, as a 40 mile tidal estuary. The Neuse River Basin contains one-sixth of North Carolina's population. The basin feeds one of the nation's largest and most productive coastal estuaries. In the Neuse River Basin, is the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary stream, where 90 percent of the commercial seafood species is caught in North Carolina. At the start of the 20th century, the Neuse River produced more successful catches of Shad than any other river in the state. Other recreational, and commercial species include, but are not limited to, Catfish, Flounder, Shrimp, and Oysters. The Neuse River Basin is also home to 17 species of rare freshwater mussels, and a rare species of snail. Two of these species, the Dwarf Wedgemussel, and the Tar River Spinymussel, are federally listed as endangered. The basin is also home to the Neuse River Waterdog, a salamander found nowhere in the world outside of the Neuse, and Tar-Pamlico basins. Other endangered species include the Roanoke bass, Carolina Darter, Leatherback Sea turtle, Atlantic Ridley Sea turtle, West Indian manatee, and the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. In the lower Neuse river, there are large quantities of nutrients, especially Nitrogen. Nitrogen is a dietary reqiriement for all organisms, but when in high quantities, can act as a poison to fish, and plants. To a lesser degree, quality of the water in the Neuse river are being affected by point source pollution, as over 400 sites are allowed by the state to discharge treated wastewater into streams. Nutrient pollution may have caused the outbreak of Pfiesteria piscicida, a swimming, microscopic organism that was traced to major fish deaths on the lower end of the river, in 1995. This organism releases a toxin that paralyzes it's prey. Piscicida means "fish killer. This microorganism was responsible for many harmful algal blooms on the coast of North Carolina and Maryland in the 1980s and 1990s. This organism ranges from 5 to 450 micrometers. Pfiesteria Piscicida has always been present in the rivers, but in the past 10 years, something has caused it to morph into a fish killer. In 10 years, this organism has killed over 1 billion fish. It goes through 24 stages of life. Several of these stages produce neurotoxins, that contaminate the water, and subdue the fish, and eats through their skin. It then feeds on weak and exposed blood, skin, and tissue. Fish eventually die, not by invasion, but by suffocation, as the neurotoxins cause paralysis of the muscles, or die by infection. The dinoflagellates continue to feed on the fish, then change form, or disappear, leaving nothing but a quarter sized hole in the carcass.

Other Facts

  • There are a total 3,880 miles of streams and tributaries in the Neuse River Basin.
  • The basin has 21 miles of coastline
  • 6,235 square miles
  • 369,977 acres of Estuaries
  • 16,414 acres of lakes
  • Population in the basin: 1,320, 379