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What is the Northeast Cape Fear River?

Ben Steelman

Sometimes called the “East Branch,” the Northeast Cape Fear River flows from a point 2 miles south of Mount Olive in Duplin County, past Albertson and Chinquapin in Pender County. It joins the main channel of the Cape Fear at Point Peter, just north of downtown Wilmington.

Its course covers some 130 miles, passing along the Angola Swamp and Holly Shelter Swamp. The river forms part of the boundary between Duplin and Wayne counties and part of the Pender-New Hanover county line.

Palmetto and cypress grow along its banks. Alligators are found in its waters and pileated woodpeckers nest nearby. Researchers at the University of North Carolina Wilmington found that it is home to at least 45 species of fish, including the bowfin. Crappie fishing is especially popular along the Northeast Cape Fear, with Prince George Creek, Long Creek, Morgan Creek and Island Creek known as particularly good fishing areas.

The river was marked on maps as early as 1682, although it was sometimes confusingly called the “Northwest Branch.” (The Cape Fear itself was called the “West Branch.” Go figure.) A 1731 report in the Penyslvania Gazette claimed the Northeast Cape Fear was deep enough for “a Sloop of 60 Tons …” Welsh settlers colonized the Northeast Cape Fear area in Duplin County in the 1730s.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission maintains a boat ramp off U.S. 117 near the Northeast Cape Fear River bridge.

During the 1990s, the river suffered a number of major waste spills from hog lagoons. Wilmington Resources (later renamed Sigma Recycling), a scrapping company that dismantled old U.S. Navy ships, was cited in 1995 for spilling oil and hydraulic fluid into the Northeast Cape Fear. The company closed down its local operations the following year.

Environmental concerns were raised in 2008 when Titan America announced plans to build a cement plant near the Northeast Cape Fear River at Castle Hayne.

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2 Responses to “ What is the Northeast Cape Fear River?”

  1. On August 2, 2011 at 1:26 am Charlet Poitevint Grace wrote:

    To Ben Steelman,
    What a perfect answer. I am writing a research paper about the Poitevint family who had land on the Black River and Long Creek. In 1728, on the Wimple map, it says Long Creek pours into the N.E. River from the west. Four dots are placed for plantations or homesteads of three men: Larkins, Portuent and Morgan. Morgan’s Creek is in that region and there the Poitevints owned much land according to deeds recorded on that stretch of Long Creek.” This quote refers to my ancestor, Pierre or Peter Poitevint/Portevent. Thank you for the information. I don’t know North Carolina and your answer allowed me to find Morgan’s Creek on the map.

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