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Black River (North Carolina) facts for kids

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Black River
Black River 2020 01.jpg
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Location of Black River mouth
Other name(s) Tributary to Cape Fear River
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Bladen
Physical characteristics
Main source confluence of Six Runs Creek and Great Coharie Creek
about 3 NW of Clear Run, North Carolina
44 ft (13 m)
34°47′23″N 078°18′45″W / 34.78972°N 78.31250°W / 34.78972; -78.31250
River mouth Cape Fear River
Wilmington, North Carolina
0 ft (0 m)
34°19′55″N 078°01′57″W / 34.33194°N 78.03250°W / 34.33194; -78.03250
Length 53.1 mi (85.5 km)
Basin features
Progression generally southeast
River system Cape Fear River
Basin size 1,417.37 square miles (3,671.0 km2)
  • Left:
    Six Runs Creek
    Clear Run
    Big Run
    Canty Mill Creek
    Wildcat Creek
    Kings Branch
    Haw Mill Creek
    Colvins Creek
    Moores Creek
    Bear Branch
    Cane Creek
    Cross Way Creek
    Machine Creek
  • Right:
    Great Coharie Creek
    Devane Branch
    Keith Branch
    South River
    Rowan Creek
    Colly Creek
    Lyon Creek
    Line Creek

The Black River is a tributary of the Cape Fear River, approximately 50 mi (80 km) long, in southeastern North Carolina in the United States.

It is formed in southern Sampson County, approximately 15 mi. (24 km) south of Clinton, by confluence of two creeks: Great Coharie Creek and Six Runs Creek. It flows SSE, receiving the South River approximately 30 mi (48 km) south of Clinton. It flows southeast through Pender County, past the Moores Creek National Battlefield, and joins the Cape Fear approximately 10 mi (16 km) northwest of Wilmington, near the broadening of the Cape Fear into a tidal estuary.

The river is known for having a wide variety of fish species, ranging from several types of sunfish and catfish, as well as largemouth bass. Ancient Bald cypress trees in excess of 2600 years old were discovered along the river in 2019.


Long before settlers were navigating the Black River corridor in the eighteenth century, Native Americans traveled through these waterways via canoes. By the nineteenth century following the Civil War, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped dredge the river in preparation for steamboats to have access to it. This would allow materials and goods such as lumber, grains, and livestock to be more easily transported by boat through the Black River.


Three Sisters

The Three Sisters swamp is located off the State Road 1550 bridge and the N.C. 53 bridge with the approximate coordinates of 34°33'59.2"N 78°15'14.7"W. This swamp is located on the Black River in Bladen County and the only way to reach Three Sisters is through the use of canoes and kayaks. The swamp is approximately one mile long and a half mile wide, but is home to the largest cluster of ancient cypress trees in the entire Black River Preserve.


The Black River is part of a blackwater system which is nutrient poor and more acidic than other types of freshwater ecosystems. The higher acidity is a result of vegetation decay and the subsequent release of tannins in the water. This makes for an environment that does not sustain most hardwood tree species and even slows the growth of bald cypress. Although its blackwater prevents certain organisms from flourishing in the Black River Preserve, these types of ecosystems often consist of a very unique variety of fauna and flora.

Within the Black River lives a rare species of fish called the Santee chub (Cyprinella zanema). Another rare fish is the Broadtail Madtom. Although both of these species of are rare, their current status is neither endangered nor threatened.

Ancient bald cypress

The Black River in North Carolina is the only location in the world where bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) have existed for over a millennium. In 2019, an individual tree—dating back to 605 B.C.E—was discovered alongside this southeastern tributary. Ancient bald cypresses were determined to be the oldest trees in eastern North America, as well as the fifth oldest species of tree on Earth.

In order to determine the age of bald cypress trees on the Black River Preserve, scientists have used a non-destructive method combining radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology. An individual by the name of David Stahle, was one of those who used the technology to date some of the oldest standing cypresses located in the area of Three Sisters swamp. This technology provides important information regarding the adaptability of the Black River ecosystem through historical variations in climate and rainfall patterns.


In 1994, the Black River was deemed an Outstanding Water Source by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. It has since become a popular location for recreational activities such as kayaking and canoeing. Year round, boaters can observe a wide variety of plant and animal species along the riverbanks.


When it comes to conservation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the longest running supporter of the Black River. TNC is largely responsible for establishing more than 17,000 acres for the Black River Preserve. With the help of North Carolina state agencies, this conservation and restoration project began in 1989 and has since protected the river and its surrounding environment.

The Black River is an area of focus for environmentalists due to threats on the ecosystem posed by humans. These threats include pollution of the river and surrounding waterways, as well as the logging industry, climate change and rise in sea level.

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