Croatan Sound

Sound in North Carolina

What is Croatan Sound?

Croatan Sound (an estuary) is an inlet in Dare County, North Carolina. It connects Pamlico Sound with Albermarle 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.

Are Estuaries Important?

Estuaries have been called the "nurseries of the sea" because the protected environment and abundant food provide an ideal location for fish and shellfish to reproduce. Most commercially important fish species spend some part of their life cycle in estuaries.

Wildlife in Croatan Sound

The Croatan Sound is a popular temporary stop for a number of migrating waterfowl, as it is located right along the "Atlantic Flyway," the makeshift route that birds take from the south to the north every year and vice versa. Observant travelers across the bridge will spot cormorants, pelicans, ibises, and even egrets and herons resting along the sounds' borders or simply floating along the open waters.

The areas surrounding the Croatan Sound are also relatively undeveloped, and have historically served as phenomenal hunting grounds for ducks, geese, and other fowl that flock, literally, to the Outer Banks.

Croatan Sound Geology

The Croatan Sound basically separates Roanoke Island and the towns of Wanchese and Manteo from the mainland, and essentially creates the island itself, buffering it from the small town of Manns Harbor and the Dare County Mainland with a wide body of saltwater that generally circulates like a slow moving river, depending on the wind and current directions. The inlet was originally the deposit locale of 9 rivers that flowed from the Albemarle, but after its closure, the water needed more room to move. As a result, the water simply moved into the western borders of Roanoke Island, and within 40 years, (between 1780 and 1720), as the inlet closed, the Croatan Sound grew and grew until it became the behemoth body of water it is today.

Threats to Esturaies

The complex ecosystem of North Carolina estuaries is harmed by changes to the land bordering and surrounding the estuaries and by contamination of river and ocean water. Although the North Carolina estuaries contain 3,000 square miles of surface water, 30,000 square miles of land drains into the Albemarle-Pamlico system. As land is developed for human habitation and use, roads, bridges, culverts, sewage systems, pipelines, and dams change the flow of water through the ecosystem. Whereas wetlands soak up water like a sponge and settle contaminants in the ground, asphalt and concrete deflect water so that it runs off with all its contaminants directly into the rivers, estuaries, and the sea.
Written and Published by: Ishan Sharma