Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a more than 159,000-acre refuge on the mainland portion of Dare and Hyde counties. It was established in 1984 to preserve and protect a unique wetland habitat type, the pocosin, and its associated wildlife species. Pocosin is a Native American word meaning ‘‘swamp-on-a-hill’’ and is characterized by poorly drained soils high in organic material. The refuge's diversity of habitat types includes high and low pocosin, bogs, fresh and brackish water marshes, hardwood swamps and Atlantic white cedar swamps. Plant species include pitcher plants and sun dews, low bush cranberries, bays, Atlantic white cedar, pond pine, gums, red maple and a wide variety of herbaceous and shrub species common to the East Coast.
The refuge is one of the last remaining strongholds for black bear on the Eastern Seaboard, and it is part of a five-county area where endangered red wolves exist in the wild. It is home to concentrations of ducks, geese and swans, and its wildlife diversity also includes wading birds, shorebirds, American woodcock, raptors, American alligators, white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, quail, river otters, and neotropical migrant song birds. This wild Outer Banks attraction will put you in touch with parts of nature that city-bound people don't often have a chance to experience.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge has great Outer Banks things to do – paddling trails, a wildlife drive, two wildlife trails and all types of wildlife and habitat for you to explore. The staff offers a variety of interpretive programs at different times of the year, including tram tours, canoe tours, Red Wolf Howlings and the Bear Necessities program about black bears. Open-air tram tours are offered monthly September through May and weekly June through August (a fee and reservations are required). Canoe tours are offered three days a week June through August (fee and reservations required). Red Wolf Howlings are offered weekly June through August and monthly from September through December and March through May (a fee is required during the summer). Call (252) 216-9464 for details and reservations.
The refuge is open year round during daylight hours.
To learn more about Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center. The center’s exhibits offer information about Alligator River and 10 other refuges in northeastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. This visitor center is on the north end of Roanoke Island, about a quarter-mile past the entrance to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The staff that manages Alligator River Refuge also manages Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island.