Information Bulletin: Keeping Lake Mattamuskeet Fresh
Photo Credits: USFWS
Caption: According to Native American folklore, Lake Mattamuskeet was created when a peat fire burned and left a space that filled with water and fish. Currently, water forming the fresh-water lake is from rain, farm run-off, and ground water. Due to the need for farmland and to provide transportation, the first canal, called the Lake Landing Drainage Canal, was built in 1838. This canal was dug by hand and it extends 7 miles from Lake Mattamuskeet to Pamlico Sound at Wysocking Bay. The drainage to the sound reduced the lake from 110,000 to 55,000 acres. Over the years many other canals were built that are important to farming practices. A steam-powered pumping station was built in 1916 to completely drain Lake Mattamuskeet for farming. This operation resulted in an additional 130 miles of canals along the lakebed. The pumping plant was shut down in 1923 due to excessive cost. With the many canals, there developed an issue with saltwater intrusion from the Pamlico Sound into the canals and the lake. The Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge manages a series of one-way tide gates on each of the four canals that connect the lake to the Pamlico Sound. The tide gates open when the head pressure is greater on the lakeside and remain closed with the pressure is greater on the Sound side. The gates prevent saltwater intrusion back into the lake but enables outflow of water, nutrients and sediments from the lake to the sound
Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is one of nine national wildlife refuges in the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Complex. Mattamuskeet Visitor Center, located on the refuge's main entrance road in Hyde County, NC, is open 8 am to 4 pm whenever volunteer staffing is available. For more information, visit the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge web page
The Mattamuskeet Lodge (above) was originally a pump house, built to hep drain Lake Mattamuskeet during the early 1900's
There are four outfall canals that connect Lake Mattamuskeet to Pamlico Sound. Tide gates (shown above) operate by head pressure, enabling drainage from the lake, but preventing saltier, Pamlico Sound water from entering the lake.