Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge

During a recent trip to Lake Mattamuskeet to check out the waterfowl population, we finally happened on the entrance to Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge. I first read about the 15,500+ acre refuge in The Natural Traveler, and tried to locate it during last year's excursion to the pocosin lakes. As it turns out, we passed it on numerous occasions.

Located off Hwy 264 between Rose Bay and Swan Quarter, the dusty, two-mile road extending from the highway ends at the Bell Island Pier, where a few of the locals cast their lines while birds keep an eye on their catch. As I discovered from the book and subsequent research, what's visible from the road and pier are all visitors can see from land. The rest of the refuge can only be viewed by boat. When they say refuge, they mean it.

At the end of the road, from left to right:

As with Pungo and Mattamuskeet, we plan on returning to Swanquarter in winter to see migrating waterfowl. But to view the birds resting on the obscured marsh, our best bet is to take the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke ferry (note: fees apply. Check the ferry schedule before traveling.)

For more information on Swanquarter, go to

To find the entrance on a map, click here or plug the coordinates 35.448679, -76.367909 in Google Maps or Google Earth.

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NCmountainwoman said...

We're going to the Outer Banks in two weeks. I'll definitely check out this refuge.

Kimberli said...

It's a nice little refuge, though most is only visible by boat. You may know about this, but while at the OBX, consider checking out both Pea Island NWF, just south of Bodie Island Lighthouse, and Currituck NWR, located on the northern tip of the barrier chain.

If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, you can drive along the beach at Currituck, and possibly see the horses that roam in that area. For photos and our report, click here.

Have fun!