Just a few miles west of Manteo and the Outer Banks, sits the 152,000 acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established in 1984 to protect the “Pocosin” wetland habitat and the wildlife that thrive there. The refuge is known for its high concentration of black bear and for its efforts to conserve and grow the population of the critically endangered Red Wolf. There are many ways for visitors to explore the refuge, including walking trails, water “kayak” trails, guided tours and programs, and even hunting and fishing are allowed with some regulations.
Along with prevalent numbers of ducks, geese, swans, deer, raccoons, rabbits, river otters, fish, and turtles, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is best known for having the largest concentration of black beer in the southeastern United States. Additionally, it has been at the forefront of recovery efforts for reintroducing the once extinct Red Wolf back into the wild. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “The Red Wolf is among the rarest of Endangered Species in the world. A five-county area in eastern North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves in the world.”
You can also find many species of migratory birds, other threatened and endangered species, and many native wildlife (fish, shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, songbirds, etc). Also rarely seen, but still present in the habitat is the American alligator.
The Milltail Creek Paddle Trails start at the end of Buffalo City Road, which is just off of highway 64. At the end of Buffalo City Road you will find a parking lot, restrooms, and a launch location for canoes and kayaks. The creek contains 4 different paddle routes that branch out from the launch site. All trails are well marked throughout, and offer over 15 miles of “water trail” to explore. Also near the launch site is the Sandy Ridge Wildlife Trail that is a ½ mile each way walking trail, a great way to explore more of the reserve before or after your kayaking adventure.
You can find a map of the reserve roads, wildlife trails, and kayak trails here. The kayak water trails are all very different. The red trail is a loop around a small island in the creek that totals 1.5 miles long. The blue trail extends south and is 5.5 miles each way, with an additional launch access at each end of the trail. The green trail is 2 miles each way, this trail extends east and takes you into Sawyer Lake. The yellow trail is 4 miles each way, this trail travels west and ends at the Alligator River, a great trail if you want to see the river or paddle the western edge of the reserve.
The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place for a day-trip adventure near the Outer Banks. Stop by the visitor center in Manteo on your way to the refuge for more information and education about the refuge. Visit our equipment rental website to reserve a kayak rental today! We offer ocean kayaks in singles and doubles as well as covered sit-in kayaks in single and double sizes that will keep you dry on your adventure. If you plan to fish from your kayak, consider renting the prowler angler kayak that has all the features to make your fishing trip a breeze!