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Croatan National Forest
( is NOT affiliated with the National Forest Service.)

Located in the eastern part of North Carolina between New Bern and Emerald Isle, the Croatan National Forest features coastal and inland swamp habitats. It is perhaps not a forest suited for everyone, but it is a very attractive area to fishermen and hunters. There are hiking trails, boat launches, campgrounds and day-use areas.

Significant natural features include pocosin habitat, estuaries and a large number of carniverous plants. The name pocosin refers to an elevated swamp, literally "swamp on a hill". Estuaries are the areas at the lower ends of rivers where fresh water meets salt water and is influenced by tides. 95% of all ocean life either originates in or is dependent upon estuaries. The Croatan Forest is home to the largest collection of Carniverous plants in any National Forest and it is near the northern range limit of the American Alligator. It also has an amazing collection of bugs, including mosquitoes and horseflies. Much of the forest is characterized swampy habitat with thick underbrush.

Highlights of the Croatan National Forest

Cedar Point Tideland Trail
1.4 mile loop trail through estuary, featuring hardwood and pine forest, tidal marsh areas. Wildlife viewing blinds. National Recreation Trail. Provides good opportunity to see wildlife and typical marshland estuary environment.

  • Directions: The Cedar Point Tideland Trail is located near the Cedar Point boat ramp parking area. It can be found by following the signs on NC Hwy. 58, north of it's junction with NC Hwy. 24, near Cape Carteret.

Island Creek Forest Walk
1/2 mile nature trail showing many different land shapes. and a stand of virgin hardwoods. A favorite place for nature study. The fall season is particularly scenic. The trail was constructed by the local Trent Woods Garden Club of New Bern with interpretive info compiled by Eagle Scout Troop 67 of New Bern. Numbered signs relate to a pamphlet giving information about indigenous plants and local features. Compacted, fossilized shells called "Marl" are revealed as outcrops, indicating that the are was at one time covered by ocean.

  • Plant community includes; (trees) Loblolly Pine, Yellow Poplar, Dogwood, Black Walnut, Sweetgum, Baldcypress, American Holly, Umbrella Magnolia, Mocketnut Hickory, American Beech, White Oak, Red Oak. (under-story) Partridge Berry, Christmas Fern.
  • Directions; US 70 S from New Bern to NC 1004. 8 miles to trail.

Neusiok Trail
Starting on the Newport River at the Newport River Parking area and ending on the Neuse River at Pinecliff Recreation Area, this trail traverses 20 miles of Forest land and crosses several paved and unpaved roads. Trail is blazed. Primitive camping is permitted along the trail, but their are no facilities. Hikers need to carry water and wear boots to cross frequent wet areas. Most people prefer fall, winter and early spring hiking to avoid the heat, insects and snakes. Winter is probably the best time. The trail begins at the low salinity Neuse River estuary, at the Pinecliff Recreation area and traverses sandy beaches, hardwood ridges, cypress-palmetto swamps, pine flat woods, pocosins, and salt marshes before emerging at the high salinity Newport River estuary at Oyster Point, a scant 5 miles from the ocean.

Wilderness Areas

  • Pocosin Wilderness
    11000 acres. Primitive trails. Fishing, hiking, hunting.
  • Pond Pine Wilderness
    1860 acres. Wilderness tract of coastal estuary. Fishing, hiking, hunting.
  • Catfish Lake South Wilderness
    Swampy vegetation in backcountry setting. 7600 acres. Fishing, hiking, hunting.
  • Sheep Ridge Wilderness
    9540 acres. Pocosin and lakes. Fishing, hiking, hunting.

The Croatan is a great area for canoeing. Both Great and Catfish Lakes are acidic lakes, surrounded by Pocosin, rich in organic peat. Look for alligators, osprey, wading birds and ducks. Both lakes have primitive boat ramps.

For smaller creeks meandering through pine woods, hardwood forests and cypress swamps try Brices, Hadnot, Hancock, Cahookie, Hunters, and Holston Creeks.

For larger rivers, try the White Oak, Neuse and Newport Rivers. Salt marsh with a wide variety of shore birds. Be sure to check out the National Forest Services new Salt Water Adventure Trail (731 Kb PDF file).

Local companies offer canoe rental in the Brices Creek area.


  • Mammals;
    White-tailed deer, black bear, turkey, squirrel, rabbits, quail, and raccoons, all of which may be hunted in accordance w/ NC State Game Regs. Muskrat, mink and otter are also common.
  • Fish:
    Fish include both fresh and saltwater species, comingling in the estuarine environment, although saltwater fish are found mostly at the lower end of the Neuse River and the saltwater marsh areas. Lake fishing is poor because of the high acid levels of the water. Species include large-mouth bass, red-breast sunfish, blue-gill, chain pickerel, warmouth, yellow perch, and catfish.
  • Birds:
    The Croatan lies on the Atlantic Flyway of migratory birds, including ducks and geese. Egrets, fly catchers, woodpeckers, hawks, woodcocks, owls, Osprey and many others. Several species of rare birds including the bald eagle, peregrine falcon.
  • Reptiles:
    Reptiles are frequently seen residents. The american alligator is a rather retiring resident of the deep swamps and waterways. Poisonous snake species include; cottonmouth moccasin, canebrake rattler, eastern diamondback rattler, pygmy rattler and copperhead.

Official National Forest Service Information and links;

Other Useful Information & Links

Croatan National Forest Headquarters
141 E. Fisher Ave.
New Bern, NC 28560
(252) 638-5628
Just off US 70, south of New Bern.

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