By Donna Campbell Smith
The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge spans 153,000 acres lying on the mainland portions of Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina. It is well worth taking the time to visit this refuge if you enjoy wildlife. I often drive through on my way to the Outer Banks, with camera ready because I never know what I’ll see as I explore the network of gravel roads through what certainly feels like a wilderness.
Black bears are the main attraction for wildlife watchers, and you are very likely to see one. There is a large variety of birds, deer and small mammals, reptiles (including alligators), and lucky visitors may even see a red wolf. In addition to wildlife watching and photography, visitors can also enjoy kayaking and canoeing, fishing and hunting (with permits and in season), geocaching, guided tours and special educational programs.
As part of the habitat management program farmers are permitted to grown crops on parts of the refuge. In exchange for farming on refuge land, the farmers leave a portion of their crop unharvested for use by wildlife. Other management tools include water level control and controlled burning.
For navigation, the refuge physical address is 100 Conservation Way, Manteo, NC.
The refuge network was established in 1984 to protect and preserve the wetlands of the area and its rich wildlife habitat. The refuge provides environmental education through workshops, guided tours, a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors. Also, printed and virtual information is available on many topics — including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species — at the visitor center and at the point of entry off Highway 64.
Visit the website to plan your trip, as visitor center and facilities restrictions are in place due to coronavirus. Download their brochure (PDF) for more information and history of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.