The Roanoke River is a typical
southeastern United States alluvial system that has formed forested swamps in
the Coastal Plain region. In the upper reach from Weldon to Scotland Neck, the Roanoke River floodplain
is relatively narrow with some locations only a mile wide. The natural levees
and ridges alternate with sloughs and backswamps in rapid succession. The
floodplain becomes flatter and broader in the middle section. Widths of 2 to 3
miles, with 1,000-acre cypress-gum backswamps, are not uncommon. The continued
presence of levees and ridges makes the middle section the most diverse and
productive. The river is essentially at sea level below Jamesville and broad
expanses of cypress-gum swamp as much as 5 miles wide dominate. As described in the NC Natural Heritage Program, there are six
natural communities within the Refuge boundary: coastal plain levee forest
(brownwater subtype), cypress-gum swamp (blackwater subtype), cypress-gum swamp
(brownwater subtype), coastal plain bottomland hardwoods (brownwater subtype),
coastal plain semi-permanent impoundment, and mesic mixed hardwood forest
National Wetlands Inventory described the entire Refuge as a palustrine,
forested wetland with deciduous or broad-leafed deciduous vegetation and a
water regime ranging from temporarily flooded to semi-permanently flooded.
Coastal Plain Levee Forest (Brownwater Subtype
The Coastal Plain Levee Forest occurs on the natural levees parallel to the river and its major creeks.Learn More
Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood Forest (Brownwater Subtype)
The Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood forest occurs on alluvial flats, low ridges, and high ridges located in the river’s upper middle section as far down as Conine Island.
Cypress-Gum Swamps (Brownwater Subtype).
The Cypress-Gum Swamps occur in the river's upper middle to middle section at the Broadneck, Company, and Conine/Askew tracts and at the river’s mouth on Goodman Island.
Cypress-Gum Swamps (Blackwater Subtype)
The Cypress-Gum Flats and swamp pocosin forests occur below Jamesville on the Refuge’s Hampton Swamp and Great Island Tracts.
Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest (Coastal Plain Subtype)
Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests flooded occasionally before construction of the dams, but now rarely or never flood.
Coastal Plain Semi-permanent Impoundment
The Coastal Plain Semi-permanent Impoundments are areas within the forested wetlands that are flooded deep enough for long enough that trees cannot survive. An example would be a beaver pond.