This River is vitally important for people and nature. 


Watch the video to learn more. 

The Cape Fear River: How Do You Benefit?   

About the River


The Cape Fear River watershed, starting in the Piedmont near Greensboro and flowing to the coast near Wilmington, is home to roughly a third of North Carolina's residents. Most of these residents get their drinking water from Cape Fear reservoirs or the river itself. All cities along the Cape Fear benefit socially and economically from the many services it provides. 


The Cape Fear Basin is also important for nature, supporting a wealth of plants and animals. Oak and hickory trees line the banks at the river's headwaters and longleaf pines populate the land downstream. 


At least 95 species of fish live in the river, foraging for food, hiding from predators, or finding the best spot to lay their eggs. Some of these species include important migratory fish like American shad, striped bass, herring, and Atlantic sturgeon. Some of these species have been reduced by nearly 90 percent over the past two centuries.


In order to ensure the protection of the natural areas along the Cape Fear, we need to implement broad-scale conservation strategies, such as restoring fish passage by modifying man-made dams and improving water quality by establishing and reducing sources of nutrient input. These efforts could help increase the size of migratory fish populations that are vital to North Carolina’s economy, while also increasing the resiliency of the coastal ecosystem. Healthy fisheries and ecosystems will benefit communities and economies long-term by providing jobs, income, clean drinking water, and an increase in economic returns by promoting tourism, recreational fishing, and commercial fishing. 



About the Collaboration


In an effort to rebuild these migratory fish populations and expand conservation efforts, a group of representatives from various organizations and governmental agencies joined together to create The Cape Fear River Partnership.


The Partnership's objective is to restore and demonstrate the value of self-sustaining migratory fish stocks in the Cape Fear. There are economic, ecological, and social benefits of rebuilding these populations, and in order to improve these benefits the Partnership developed the Action Plan for Migratory Fish, which aims to restore habitat and improve fish health in the Cape Fear. 


The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and NC Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) are building on ongoing work by the Cape Fear River Partnership to better understand and quantify some of the economic benefits stemming from the Cape Fear. The collaboration is quantifying the economic importance of migratory fish species and fisheries. They are working to understand how improved water quality management could lead to healthier fish and habitat. And, they are trying to understand how improved water quality management will benefit people in other ways, specifically through maintaining clean drinking water for Brunswick, Pender, and New Hanover counties.     


The project, funded by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), focuses on the importance of the Cape Fear to people, specifically for drinking water and for fisheries.  The region of focus is the main stem river between Lock and Dams #1 and #2 where improvements to water quality could yield multiple benefits to people in the basin.