Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is 110,000 acres in Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties. It is located six miles south of Columbia, NC off Highway 94 on the east and 18 miles south of Plymouth, NC on Highway 45 on the west. The refuge headquarters and Walter B. Jones, Sr. Center for the Sounds is located on the south side of Highway 64 on the Scuppernong River in Columbia, NC.
The 12,350 acre Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was originally established in the early 1960s to provide wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. In the early 1990s, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve some of the unique wetlands found in the southeast known as “pocosin”; it included lands immediately adjacent to Pungo so the two refuges were merged. Pungo’s waterfowl purpose remains with those lands; we manage it primarily to provide natural wetlands, moist soil habitat, and supplemental grain (from farming) for waterfowl. Large numbers of waterfowl concentrate on this relatively small area in the winter with peak numbers of well over 100,000 in December and/or January each year. Waterfowl species that winter on Pungo include tundra swan, snow goose, and over 20 species of ducks including wood duck, teal, mallard, and pintail. Conservation efforts on the rest of Pocosin Lakes include restoring the highly altered hydrology of the system and managing water (from rainfall) in the system, as well as managing fire on the landscape (both naturally-occurring wildfires and prescribed fire). The large contiguous forested wetlands in the area support neotropical migratory birds, including many species with declining populations. It is the home to only population of wild, free roaming red wolves in the world and supports several clusters of endangered red cockaded woodpeckers (though the habitat is very different from the longleaf pine savannas where these birds are normally found). And the pocosin supports one of the densest populations of American black bear reported anywhere in the scientific literature.
On the Pungo Unit you can visit the observation platform for optimal viewing on the shores of Pungo Lake or take a walk along Duck Pen trail located on the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes. This half mile trail leads visitors to a blind constructed for viewing wintering waterfowl and migratory birds on Pungo Lake.
Grab, print out, or download one of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Pungo Unit Regulations and Visitor Information brochures. The brochure contains information on ideal observation points throughout the refuge. You can also take a walk on the Scuppernong River Interpretive Boardwalk located behind the visitor center in Columbia. Wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and hunting (primarily deer hunting) are all popular activities on the Refuge.
The purpose of Pocosin Lakes NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, as reflected in the legislation under which Congress authorized the refuge and the refuge has acquired land, is to protect and conserve migratory birds and other wildlife resources through the protection of wetlands, in accordance with the following laws:
...for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds... 16 U.S.C. Sec. 664 (Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929);
...for the conservation of the wetlands of the Nation in order to maintain the public benefits they provide and to help fulfill international obligations contained in various migratory bird treaties and conventions... 16 U.S.C. Sec 3901 (b) 100 Stat. 3583 (Emergency Wetland Resources Act of 1986)
...for the development, advancement, management, conservation, and protection of fish and wildlife resources... 16 U.S.C. Sec 742f(a)(4) (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956)
...for the benefit of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in performing its activities and services. Such acceptance may be subject to the terms of any restriction or affirmative covenant or condition of servitude... 16 U.S.C. Sec 742f(a)(4) (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956)
The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge will restore and maintain natural processes and biodiversity of a functional pocosin wetland and provide habitat for threatened, endangered, and other Federal trust species. On the Pungo Unit, the refuge will provide optimum wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl and breeding habitat for wood ducks throughout the refuge on suitable habitats in conjunction with other refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The refuge will reduce habitat fragmentation by establishing corridors to other protected areas in the central Albemarle - Pamlico Peninsula. The visitor center will be a gateway for visitors to refuges in eastern North Carolina. The refuge will serve as a destination for nature-based tourism that will contribute to the economic health of rural communities. It will provide opportunities for priority public uses. The refuge staff will continue to use partnerships to accomplish goals.
The goals established for management of Pocosin Lakes NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE through the development of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge are:
Wildlife Populations: Conserve, protect, and maintain healthy and viable populations of migratory birds, wildlife, fish, and plants, including Federal and State endangered and trust species.
Habitat: Restore, protect, and enhance pocosin wetlands and other natural habitats for optimum biodiversity. Intensively manage habitats specific to waterfowl on the Pungo Unit.
Public Use: Develop programs and facilities to increase public use opportunities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation.
Resource Protection: Protect and perpetuate refuge resources by limiting the adverse effects of human activities and development on refuge resources.
Administration: Acquire resources and infrastructure to accomplish the other refuge goals. Support local efforts to sustain economic health through nature-based tourism.
The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program has designated most of the refuge, with the exception of cropland, moist-soil areas, and the shop area, as a “Significant Natural Heritage Area.” The North Carolina Division of Water Quality has designated several water bodies in the vicinity of Pocosin Lakes NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE as outstanding resource waters or high-quality waters. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has designated several streams and water bodies within and off the eastern border of the refuge as anadromous fish spawning habitats.