Visit Halifax County North Carolina

The Mighty Roanoke River: A Photo Essay

As seen in Our State Magazine - March 2021

Post: March 9, 2021

Effective management has brought back the world-renowned Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound striped bass fishery, from 195,000 fish in 1988 to one million in 2018. A pair of men fishing on the Roanoke near Weldon attempt an age-old trade: a minnow on each of their hooks for a striper apiece.

The Roanoke begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and travels more than 400 miles before emptying into Albemarle Sound, linking countless lives along the way. Follow along as a native son traces the river’s path through northeastern North Carolina, sharing stories of the Roanoke he knows and loves.

by Bland Simpson

Finding the Flow

With a drainage area of almost 10,000 square miles, the Roanoke River is bigger than all the other North Carolina river basins — only the Cape Fear comes close. The catch is that all of the more than 9,000-square-mile Cape Fear basin is within North Carolina, while most of the Roanoke pulls Virginia’s Blue Ridge waters our way, with just over one-third of the Roanoke actually in our state. The Dan River, part of the Roanoke’s headwaters, drains some of North Carolina over by Mayodan and Hanging Rock and the Sauratown Mountains. Then, it joins the Roanoke east of South Boston, Virginia, on its way back here by way of Kerr Lake, Lake Gaston, Roanoke Rapids Lake, and the lower Roanoke below the rapids: through Weldon and Halifax, down around Occoneechee Neck, beneath Rainbow Bluff, past riverports Williamston and Plymouth, and around the Purchace Islands on its way to the great Albemarle Sound, which, for good reason, was known long ago as the Sea of Roanoke.

To be out on the water all day is an incomparable success. To be on the water at sunset is simply sublime. And to be the only boat there when the sun plates the water an enameled gold is a gift from heaven, about which one must never boast but only say a prayerful thanks.

Roanoke Rapids Lake

Though smallest in the chain of three Roanoke River impoundments (including Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston above it), the hydroelectric station at the Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam can generate 95 megawatts of power — 42 percent as much as the far larger Lake Gaston’s 224-megawatt output. And Roanoke Rapids Lake draws folks who appreciate the relative quiet and the many coves of its 47-mile shoreline. I have seen men fishing happily from the willow bushes where a road dead-ends into the lake’s south side, hoping for bream and crappie and catfish well on into the night.

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This story was published on Mar 02, 2021

Updated: March 9, 2021 11:37 am EST

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