The Croatan (kro-a-tan) National Forest, located in east-central North Carolina on the Atlantic coast, is comprised of 159,591 acres. There are three developed campgrounds, two of which meet the selection criteria.
The Croatan is one of four National Forests in North Carolina and the only true coastal forest east of the Mississippi. A combination of pocosins, Longleaf and Loblolly pine, bottomland and upland hardwood ecosystems give this little Forest a diversity in appearance, a number of Crotan unique recreational opportunities, and great camping locations.
While bottomland and upland hardwood, and Loblolly/Longleaf ecosystems are fairly common around the coastal South, the pocosin ecosystem is a unique geological feature found in the Croatan National Forest. Simply described it is a "swamp-on-a-hill." Just the right events must occur in an extensive area of accumulated organic material which have high levels of acidity and a deficiency in nutrients. The resulting "swamp-on-a-hill" will have a good growth of dense vines and pine along its outer edge with vegetation gradually reducing toward the pocosin's center. Over half of the Croatan National Forest is composed of pocosins and offers an intrepid hiker a different forest experience.
But there is more to the Croatan National Forest than pocosins. Well-developed hiking trails, such as Neusiok Trail and Island Creek Forest Walk, provide a way to explore the Forest's other ecosystems. There are also campgrounds nestled in the forest to help visitors enjoy the Croatan. A camping location that welcomes all campers, from car to motorhome camping enthusiasts, Flanners Beach campground, located in a Longleaf and Loblolly pine ecosystem next to the Neuse River.
Flanners Beach campground has something for just about every member of the family, including some elctric hook-ups, hot showers, and flush toilets. Located on a bluff overlooking the Neuse River, the campground is best known for its long, sandy swimming beach - Flanners Beach. Although there is no lifeguard present, the gentle sloping shore and river-size waves beckon many to cool off with a dip into the river's water. Fishing and pleasure boats pass by the beach while various waterfowl hunt for their next meal in the knobby kneed cypress trees at the river's edge. Flanner's Beach trail is nearby for those who want a change from relaxing on the beach. This 3-mile trail winds its way through a mixture of pine and hardwoods and attracts both hikers and mountain bike riders.
The dramatic daily changes of tideland or bottomland ecosystem can be found at Cedar Point campground near Bogue Sound. With each camp site having electric hook-ups and long paved aprons, and an RV waste dump station at the campground, Cedar Point is a popular RV/motorhome camping enthusiasts. A ramp boat, easy access to intracoastal waterway, and some fascinating tidal areas to explore by canoe make Cedar Point campground popular with campers interested in water-based recreation. Although most popular with RV/motorhome users, car and tent camping enthusiasts will find the walls of healthy vegetation offer the seclusion and quiet they want.
One feature that attracts people to the Croatan National Forest area are the nearby long, clean stretches of Atlantic Ocean beaches. There are beaches about four miles east of Cedar Point campground. A walk along the beach, watching the dolphins body surfing at sunset, is a wonderful way to end the day. But sunrise at Cedar Point campground is a wonderful way to start the day. Sites are scattered on a lopsided circle in a neatly kept grassy area dotted with Loblolly pines. Surrounded on two sides by tidal marsh and the other two by pine woods, the campground is a sanctuary for wildlife such as deer and raccoon, along with a wide variety of bird life.
Just off a parking area for the campground's boat ramp is the Cedar Point Tideland Trail. Composed of two loops, one is 0.6 miles and the other 1.3 miles, the Tideland Trail is designated a National Recreation Trail. With a series of boardwalks and raised walkways dotted by plackets illustrating the special features of this boundary between ocean and land, the trail provides visitors with an excellent opportunity to the see comings and goings of nature.
Bogue Sound and the White Oak River area, adjacent to Cedar Point campground, offers a number of great paddle trails for canoeists. Each unique trail provides a special way of experiencing the watery ecosystems. There are also delightful paddle opportunities found at the 2,809-acre Great Lake and the smaller Catfish Lake as well as on one of the many creeks that crisscross the Forest. Equipment can be rented from local outfitters. Contact the District Ranger Office for more information about outfitters. For information about the many paddle trails, contact the Crystal Coast Canoe & Kayak Club at www.ccckc.org.
A particularly pleasant surprise for first time visitors to the Croatan National Forest are the large, spacious family-style bathrooms found at both Flanners Beach and Cedar Point campgrounds. Designed for use by the whole family to use at one time, these modern bathrooms have all the conveniences of home including hot showers, flush toilets, and electric power.
With numerous rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, marshes, and estuaries, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, the Croatan National Forest can boast a wide variety of fish, much to any angular's delight. From catfish to largemouth bass, bluegills to flounder, perch or croakers, the fishing is plentiful.
Another delight the Croatan can offer its visitors is an ideal environment for some very unusual plants. Venus' flytraps, sundews, and pitcher-plants are scattered throughout the Forest. With luck, visitors sometimes get to see one of these carnivorous plants catching a meal.
The Croatan National Forest is a special place, featuring unique ecosystems, many water-based recreation opportunities, and convenient camping locations. Canoeing or fishing, hiking or swimming, relaxing by a campfire or viewing wildlife, the Croatan National Forest has many things to bring the first time visitor back again and again.
160A Zillicoa St.
Asheville, North Carolina 28801
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
141 E. Fisher Ave
New Bern, North Carolina 28560