On The Road: Roanoke River Wildlife Refuge & paddle trail offer something for everyone


“It’s a wild experience, it’s an adventure, it is as close to nature as you can possibly get” says Lucia Peel, president of Roanoke River Partners.

Just across the river from Williamston lies a world of untouched beauty in the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge. The Conine and Askew tracts as they’re known, cover tens of thousands of acres.


“I think one of the big draws for the refuge is that it’s pretty much pristine forest” explains Matt Connolly, who manages the refuge.

And the miles of forest are home to plenty of wildlife.

“I think people come here for a variety of reasons. Bird watching is a big popular thing, especially towards the fall, when it’s a little cooler out, and the spring” says Connolly.

The thousands who visit every year will get the chance to see wild turkeys, deer, and even bear. But spotting wildlife isn’t your only option.

In addition to the chance to see plenty of wildlife, the Roanoke River also offers other opportunities, including getting out and enjoying on a canoe or kayak.

The Roanoke River Paddle Trail was built in the 1990’s to help people make better use of the river. Along it, 15 campsites are spread out from the Virginia line to the Albemarle Sound.


“The platforms are all unique. Some have screened in porches, and you see more wildlife than you can imagine and it’s extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful back there” says Peel.

river-landing-1 river-landing-2 river-landing-3

Heber Coltrian has lived in Martin County for over 50 years and now shares his experience with others.

“I thought I saw a need for some people to maybe have some help guiding their trips and also furnishing with some canoes, kayaks” said Coltrain.

So he started Roanoke Outdoor Adventures and heads up several guided tours a year.


“They’re fascinated with it, and I still am. I get a pleasure out of hearing their stories and learning about what they’ve seen” said Coltrain.

Some refer to the Roanoke as the Amazon of North Carolina. Whatever they call it, people come from all over the country and all over the world to see it.

“My job is to make sure that they’re safe and to make sure that they have a good time” said Coltrain.

And for nature lovers, it’s hard not to have a good time out here.


For more information on the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, click here.

For more information on the Roanoke River Partners, click here.

For more information on Roanoke Outdoor Adventures, click here.

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