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North Carolina has an extensive shoreline with about 325 miles of ocean shoreline and over 12,000 miles of shore along the estuary, the transitional zone where salt water and fresh water meet. Estuarine shorelines include those along the state’s many sounds, intertidal marshes, rivers and creeks. The salt marshes and other estuarine wetlands along the shoreline provide a variety of ecosystem services in storm protection, seafood nurseries and improved water quality. Shoreline types include swamp forest, intertidal marsh, sediment bank, and modified shorelines.


Wetlands Thumbnail

Wetlands are ecological systems located in the transition between land and water. Some wetlands are inundated with water all the time, others only part of the time or have saturated hydric soils. Because eastern North Carolina has low elevation lands with poor drainage and a warm temperate climate, many different types of wetlands have formed depending on salinity of the water, hydrology and the plants that thrive in those conditions. Intertidal marshes are found in estuarine areas with low energy tides.

Much of the low-lying land in coastal North Carolina is vulnerable to flooding and inundation due to precipitation from storms, storm surges, wind tides, and the long-term process of sea-level rise, which exacerbates storm flooding and causes permanent inundation of some areas.  Areas at risk of inundation and flooding include natural resource areas, agricultural areas, residential areas and public infrastructure, particularly water infrastructure.

East Carolina University has an outstanding group of coastal researchers doing interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the fields of geography, geology, climatology, biology, ecology, fisheries, economics, anthropology, sociology, recreation, environmental health, maritime heritage and  communications. ECU is home to the Center for Natural Hazards Research, the Institute  for Coastal Science and Policy,the Coastal Water Resources Center and the Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling.

The dasymetric techniques used for this map integrate 2010 Census population data at the block group level [A] with 2010 LULC data from NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) [B]. The population values from Census block groups are “dis-aggregated” by distributing their value into intersecting LULC raster cells.

North Carolina’s ocean, sounds, and coastal rivers provide many excellent sites for water and wind sports. From motor and sail yacht cruising to small boat motoring and sailing, and from surfing to windsurfing and kiteboarding, amenities are available to enjoy these activities almost anywhere along the North Carolina coast.

This map, developed with support from North Carolina Land of Water (NC LOW), contains layers locating (1) favorite local surf spots, (2) windsurfing and kiteboarding spots, (3) boat ramps and marinas, and (4) ocean and beach access.        

The NC Sentinel Site Cooperative (NCSSC) has partnered with the ECU Coastal Atlas to create the NCSSC Clearinghouse.  The Clearinghouse allows users to easily access past and ongoing research and monitoring projects that relate to sea level change, coastal flooding, and resilience in the Cooperative’s geography.

With over three hundred miles of ocean shoreline and sandy beaches, and over 12,000 miles of estuarine shoreline, the North Carolina coast and coastal plain is a recreational paradise. Estuarine shorelines include those along the many sounds, intertidal marshes, rivers and creeks, with adjacent wetlands ranging from salt marshes to riverine swamp forests.

First explored by Europeans in 1584, and inhabited by Native Americans for over 10,000 years, the North Carolina coastal plain has a rich and varied history and cultural. In addition, due to its abundance of natural resources, much of its area is protected through a system of National Wildlife Refuges as well as other conservation arrangement.

A map showing places in eastern North Carolina that are included in the National Register of Historic Places.