Mattamuskeet is a national wildlife refuge in the Fish and Wildlife service, near the North Carolina coast below Cape Hatteras. It is a major stopping point for migratory waterfowl and habitat for numerous wildlife, and can be visited year-round. Historically, it has a hunting lodge that was converted from a pumping station that was the largest of its kind in the early 20th century.
National Wildlife Refuge is a 50,180 acre refuge
consisting of a 40,000 acre freshwater shallow lake and coastal
wetland in Hyde County. It is part of North Carolina's Lower Coastal
Plain. There are three theories about its origin – that it was the
result of a meteor shower that created several shallow lakes in the
area, that wildfires burned out the peat layers (a Native American
legend that may have a scientific basis), or that it was created by
the recession of coastal wetlands known as Carolina bays.
two main features are Lake Mattamuskeet and Mattamuskeet Lodge. Lake
Mattamuskeet is very shallow – averaging 1.5 feet (a range of 0.5-4
feet) in depth and 3-5 feet below sea level - but it is the largest
natural lake in North Carolina. It is 14 miles long by 5 miles wide,
and is currently fed by rainfall and natural runoff.
Lodge, near the current visitors center, was converted from what was
the world's largest pumping plant when it was built in 1914.
Capitalizing on the huge diversity of water fowl on the lake, the
building was used as a hunting lodge from 1934 until 1974. The
building went on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and
the area became a wildlife refuge in 2007.
pumping station was part of a major land reclamation and draining
project in the early 20th century, an attempt to turn the
area into farmland that was inspired by similar projects in the
Netherlands. The lake and surrounding wetlands soon proved too large
to make this practical. By 1934, the project had been abandoned and
the land sold to the U.S. Government.
Mattamuskeet's greatest importance is as a refuge for migratory
waterfowl, large mammals, and coastal cypress and hardwood forest.
Fifteen artificial impoundments and forest management techniques are
used to create and enhance habitat for over 200,000 ducks, geese,
swans, and birds of prey, as well as deer, red wolves, bobcats, black
bears, otters, and many reptiles, amphibians, fish, and shellfish.
are numerous observation decks along Highway 94, a causeway that
crosses the lake. The refuge is also a major part of the annual
coastal birding event Wings Over Water, through which it conducts
tours of the lake in October and December. There are walking trails
near the Lodge and visitors center. Some fishing and hunting are
permitted. It is also possible to go boating, though only from March
1 through October 31. Since waterfowl winter in the area, some
activities are restricted on the lake during that season.