North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve
North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve Logo

North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve

Reserve Information



Lead Agency

Department of Environmental Quality
(Visit Site)


10,568 acres


Four sites located near Corolla (Currituck Banks), Beaufort (Rachel Carson) and Wilmington (Masonboro Island and Zeke's Island).

Additional Information

Habitats in this reserve support about 90 percent of the commercial seafood species caught in North Carolina.

Biogeographic Region


Tidal Range

1.2 meters

About This Reserve

This reserve was established to preserve the fragile natural areas that make up the third largest estuarine system in the country and the variety of life found there. The reserve is comprised of four sites that represent the two major biogeographic regions located north (Virginian) and south (Carolinian) of Cape Hatteras. The Currituck Banks site is in the Virginian, while Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island are Carolinian.

The North Carolina Reserve is one of 30 areas in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and is protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. Daily oversight is provided by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and other local partners. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management provides funding, national guidance, and technical assistance.

Reserve Location and Boundaries