Croatan National Forest, NC
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Croatan National Forest is an 157,000 acre forest with Game Lands and other recreation opportunity.
Brice's Creek -- great to float and fish
Photo courtesy the NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Located between Morehead City and New Bern, on the coast, is the Croatan National Forest. Croatan Forest covers 157,000 acres offering many fantastic outdoor recreational opportunities.

Croatan NF is a beautiful place for the outdoors person. Croatan is characterized by a few basic land types. It is mostly coastal pine forest, pocosin habitat, and estuaries. Pocosin is an elevated swamp area, literally "swamp on a hill". Large areas of this pocosin and estuary make for a swampy habitat with thick underbrush. This land often makes travel tough and the mosquitoes and sheep flies will seem relentless certain times of the year. The editor, who was raised in the NC mountains, finds it a tough place to navigate. Because of the harsh habitat: Carry a compass, map, cell phones, etc. as it is easy to get lost in parts of the forest.

Wildlife Commission deer harvest numbers show that some of NC's biggest bucks will be found in Jones and Craven counties and other agricultural counties around these counties. Much of Croatan NF is in Jones and Craven counties offering a fine public land hunt. Croatan deer will not be the biggest and best bucks in the area but are good compared to some areas in the state. The game land benefits somewhat from agricultural lands in the region.

Photo courtesy NCWRC

Croatan is also noted for a very good population of black bear. Likewise, it has a good population of turkey, squirrel, rabbits, and othere small game. Croatan has a decent population of wild quail considered quail densities today. Croatan quail will usually be scattered and heavily shot over by the end of the season. Many people have good luck around the managed fields as you might expect. The Croatan NF lies on the Atlantic Flyway of migratory ducks and geese making it a good bet during the winter migrations. Egrets, Osprey, and several other rare species of bird including the bald eagle can be readily viewed (not hunted). NC Wildlife Resources Commission regulations apply to both hunting and fishing with some special Game lands rules for hunting; read and follow all regulations closely.

Fish include both fresh and saltwater species. Saltwater fish are found mostly at the lower end of the Neuse River and the saltwater marsh areas. They are plentiful in these areas. Of course, any of the common saltwater fish can be taken here. Lake fishing is typically poor because the pocosin has caused high acid levels in the fresh waters. Species include largemouth, sunfish, bluegill, chain pickerel, warmouth, yellow perch, and catfish.

Good Links:
Croatan NF Recreation Map(pdf) -- US map to Area
Croatan National Forest --
141 E. Fisher Avenue
New Bern, NC 28560
NC Natural Croatan -- Lots of good info

The Croatan NF offers is a very canoeing experience. Catfish Lake which is 962 acres and Great Lake which is 2809 acres are probably the best know of Croatan lakes. Both lake offers a very good chance of viewing wildlife including alligators, osprey, several types of wading birds, and ducks. Both lakes have primitive boat ramps. The Neuse, White Oak, and Newport Rivers offer salt marsh with a incredible variety of shore birds, fish, and animals. Smaller creeks including the Hadnot, Hancock, Cahookie, Brices, Hunters, and Holston Creeks abound with beauty and team with wildlife. View the Salt Water Adventure Trail to get you started.

The Croatan Game Land is a favorite for eastern NC. It offers the NC sportsman some of the best outdoor activities within the state. Map to Croatan Game Lands can be viewed by navigating through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Site with a detailed map at:

  1. NC Wildlife site for Croatan Game Land -- Page 1,
  2. NC Wildlife site for Croatan Game Land -- Page 2, and
  3. NC Wildlife site for Croatan Game Land -- Page 3.

Another useful map of the place can be seed at the ENR site.

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