Black River (North Carolina)

The Black River is a tributary of the Cape Fear River, approximately 50 mi (80 km) long, in southeastern North Carolina in the United States.

Black River
Tributary to Cape Fear River
Black River 2020 01.jpg
Black River (North Carolina) is located in North Carolina
Black River (North Carolina)
Location of Black River mouth
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
Physical characteristics
Sourceconfluence of Six Runs Creek and Great Coharie Creek
 • locationabout 3 NW of Clear Run, North Carolina
 • coordinates34°47′23″N 078°18′45″W / 34.78972°N 78.31250°W / 34.78972; -78.31250
 • elevation44 ft (13 m)
MouthCape Fear River
 • location
Wilmington, North Carolina
 • coordinates
34°19′55″N 078°01′57″W / 34.33194°N 78.03250°W / 34.33194; -78.03250Coordinates: 34°19′55″N 078°01′57″W / 34.33194°N 78.03250°W / 34.33194; -78.03250
 • elevation
0 ft (0 m)
Length53.1 mi (85.5 km)
Basin size1,417.37 square miles (3,671.0 km2)
 • locationWilmington, North Carolina
 • average1,609.9 cu ft/s (45.59 m3/s) at mouth with Cape Fear River
Basin features
ProgressionCape Fear RiverAtlantic Ocean
River systemCape Fear River
 • leftSix Runs Creek
Clear Run
Big Run
Canty Mill Creek
Wildcat Creek
Kings Branch
Haw Mill Creek
Colvins Creek
Moores Creek
Bear Branch
Cane Creek
Cross Way Creek
Machine Creek
 • rightGreat Coharie Creek
Devane Branch
Keith Branch
South River
Rowan Creek
Colly Creek
Lyon Creek
Line Creek

It is formed in southern Sampson County, approximately 15 mi. (24 km) south of Clinton, by confluence of two creeks: Great Coharie Creek and Six Runs Creek. It flows SSE, receiving the South River approximately 30 mi (48 km) south of Clinton. It flows southeast through Pender County, past the Moores Creek National Battlefield, and joins the Cape Fear approximately 10 mi (16 km) northwest of Wilmington, near the broadening of the Cape Fear into a tidal estuary.

The river is known for having a wide variety of fish species, ranging from several types of sunfish and catfish, as well as largemouth bass. Ancient Bald cypress trees in excess of 2600 years old were discovered along the river in 2019.[1]


Long before settlers were navigating the Black River corridor in the eighteenth century, Native Americans traveled through these waterways via canoes. By the nineteenth century following the Civil War, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped dredge the river in preparation for steamboats to have access to it. This would allow materials and goods such as lumber, grains, and livestock to be more easily transported by boat through the Black River.[2]


Three SistersEdit

The Three Sisters swamp is located off the State Road 1550 bridge and the N.C. 53 bridge with the approximate coordinates of 34°33'59.2"N 78°15'14.7"W.[3] This swamp is located on the Black River in Bladen County and the only way to reach Three Sisters is through the use of canoes and kayaks. The swamp is approximately one mile long and a half mile wide, but is home to the largest cluster of ancient cypress trees in the entire Black River Preserve.[4]


The Black River is part of a blackwater system which is nutrient-poor and more acidic than other types of freshwater ecosystems. The higher acidity is a result of vegetation decay and the subsequent release of tannins in the water. This makes for an environment that does not sustain most hardwood tree species and even slows the growth of bald cypress. Although its blackwater prevents certain organisms from flourishing in the Black River Preserve, these types of ecosystems often consist of a very unique variety of fauna and flora.[5]

Within the Black River lives a rare species of fish called the Santee chub (Cyprinella zanema). Another rare fish is the Broadtail Madtom.[6] Although both of these species are uncommon, their current status is neither endangered nor threatened.

Ancient bald cypressEdit

The Black River in North Carolina is the only location in the world where bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) have existed for over a millennium. In 2019, an individual tree—dating back to 605 B.C.E—was discovered alongside this southeastern tributary. Ancient bald cypresses were determined to be the oldest trees in eastern North America, as well as the fifth oldest species of tree on Earth.[6][7]

In order to determine the age of bald cypress trees on the Black River Preserve, scientists have used a non-destructive method combining radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology. An individual by the name of David Stahle, was one of those who used the technology to date some of the oldest standing cypresses located in the area of Three Sisters swamp.[7] This technology provides important information regarding the adaptability of the Black River ecosystem through historical variations in climate and rainfall patterns.[5]


In 1994, the Black River was deemed an Outstanding Water Source by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. It has since become a popular location for recreational activities such as kayaking and canoeing. Year round, boaters can observe a wide variety of plant and animal species along the riverbanks.[6]


When it comes to conservation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the longest running supporter of the Black River. TNC is largely responsible for establishing more than 17,000 acres for the Black River Preserve. With the help of North Carolina state agencies, this conservation and restoration project began in 1989 and has since protected the river and its surrounding environment.[6]

The Black River is an area of focus for environmentalists due to threats on the ecosystem posed by humans. These threats include pollution of the river and surrounding waterways, as well as the logging industry, climate change and rise in sea level.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Starr, Michelle. "A 2,624-Year-Old Tree Has Just Been Found Growing in a Swamp in America". ScienceAlert. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  2. ^ "Paddling Black River: History, Ancient Trees | Coastal Review Online". 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  3. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  4. ^ "River of Time". Coastwatch. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  5. ^ a b c Stahle, D. W.; Edmondson, J. R.; Howard, I. M.; Robbins, C. R.; Griffin, R. D.; Carl, A.; Hall, C. B.; Stahle, D. K.; Torbenson, M. C. A. (May 2019). "Longevity, climate sensitivity, and conservation status of wetland trees at Black River, North Carolina". Environmental Research Communications. 1 (4): 041002. doi:10.1088/2515-7620/ab0c4a. ISSN 2515-7620.
  6. ^ a b c d "Black River Preserve". The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  7. ^ a b Horn-Muller, Ayurella (1 August 2021). "The oldest tree in eastern US survived millennia – but rising seas could kill it". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2021.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  1. ^ "GNIS Detail - Black River". Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  2. ^ "Black River Topo Map in Pender". TopoZone. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  3. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  4. ^ "Watershed Report". United States Environmental Protection Agency. March 2019.