Effects of Nutrient Pollution on the Neuse River

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The Neuse is one of only three rivers in North Carolina whose boundaries are located entirely within the state. Encompassing over 6,000 square miles of watershed and stretching about 248 miles, it begins northwest of Durham, NC, in a 10-acre farm pond which is the headwater of the Eno. From there it feeds into Falls Lake, located on the north side of Raleigh, NC. From the Raleigh-Durham area, where it is a freshwater river, it flows generally south of east toward the Pamlico Sound, passing through many cities, farms, and swamps. It becomes a shallow, slow-moving, brackish (where freshwater and salt water meet) estuary (is a semi-enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea) just upstream from the city of New Bern, in western Craven County. It is wider here at its upper estuary and is affected by wind-driven currents, as well as by salt water that move upstream from the Pamlico Sound. The lower Neuse estuary begins in the area of Flanner’s Beach and Minnesott Beach and continues emptying into the Pamlico Sound. There, the mouth of the Neuse is reported to have the widest river mouth in the continental US. The Neuse River is one of three large rivers that flow into the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

The Neuse’s provides approximately 2,750 acres of prime nursery habitat, and 1,250 acres of secondary nursery habitats. The Neuse is an important habitat for such fish as shad, herring, catfish, bass, and flounder. The Neuse is also home to vital populations of blue crab and oysters. Of the 3.5 million acres that comprise the Neuse Basin, 48,000 acres are state parks, 110,000 acres are game lands held by the Wildlife Resources Commission, and 58,000 acres are National Forest. The Neuse River drains land in 19 counties covering 6,192 square miles. More than 1,500,000 people (1/6 North Carolina's population) live in the basin. Many more come to visit each year.

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