Albemarle Sound is a large
estuaryon the coast of North Carolinain the United Stateslocated at the confluence of a group of rivers, including the Chowan and Roanoke. It is separated from the Atlantic Oceanby the Outer Banks, a long barrier peninsula upon which the town of Kitty Hawk is located, at the eastern edge of the sound. Roanoke Islandis situated at the southeastern corner of the sound, where it connects to Pamlico Sound. Much of the water in the Albemarle Sound is brackish or fresh, as opposed to the saltwater of the ocean, as a result of river water pouring into the sound.
Some small portions of the Albemarle have been given their own "sound" names to distinguish these bodies of water from other parts of the large estuary. The
Croatan Sound, for instance, lies between mainland Dare County and Roanoke Island. The eastern shore of the island to the Outer Banks is commonly referred to as the Roanoke Sound. The long stretch of water from near the Virginiastate line south to around the Currituck County southern boundary is known as the Currituck Sound.
The sound forms part of the
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Its coast saw the first permanent English settlements in what became North Carolina, the Albemarle Settlements. Many inland tidewatercommunities along the Albemarle today are part of the Inner Banksregion of the state. clear
Before Europeans came to the Albemarle Sound, the
AlgonquianIndians lived in the region. They traveled the sound in dugout canoes, and trapped fish.
In 1586 the first European explorers sailed up the fifty-five mile length of the Albemarle Sound. Half a century later, the first European settlers came south from
Virginia, establishing agricultural and trading colonies along the shores of the Sound. The Albemarle Sound soon became a very important thoroughfare, with small trading ships called Coasterscarrying cargo to and from other colonies, and larger merchant ships bringing spices, silks, and sugars from the West Indiesin exchange for products such as tobacco(a major export of the southern colonies), herring, and lumber. Ferrieswere a common method of transportation through the swamps surrounding the Albemarle Sound throughout the history of the region. One ferry that linked the towns of Edentonand Mackeys, North Carolina, continued in service from 1734 to 1938, when a bridge was built across the Sound. Another longer bridge of more than 3 miles in length was built in 1990.
Fishing was a major industry in the Albemarle Sound. In late spring, plantation farmers would fish for
shad, striped bass, and herring. Nets used by these fishermen were sometimes enormous, with some more than a mile long, and were frequently manned 24 hours a day. Herring was cut and salted for export to Europe, while shad was packed in ice and shipped up the Chowan Riverto be sold in northern colonies. Regional striped bass tournaments attracted sport fishermen to the area, and it was considered by many to be the greatest striped bass fishery in the world.
Overfishing in recent years has depleted the fisheries of the Albemarle Sound by seventy percent.
* [http://www.discoverec.org/ Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau]
* [http://harborofhospitality.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth City Area CVB's Blog]
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