The gracious homes along the banks of Pembroke Creek, North Carolina contrast dramatically with the wildness of the Chowan Game Lands further upstream.
The Chowan Game Lands are 31 acres of river swamp forest. It’s a small subset of the Chowan Swamp Game Lands – 31,000 acres along the banks of the Chowan River spanning three counties sprawled across the Carolina coastal plain.
The coastal plain is as flat as a kitchen table extending 125 miles from the coast. It typically loses only one foot of elevation per mile. Like the other blackwater rivers and creeks of the coastal plain, Pembroke Creek meanders sluggishly. It’s beyond the reach of lunar tides; what tide affects the creek is sporadic and wind-driven.
Even though hunting and fishing are allowed, the Chowan Game Lands remain a refuge for waterfowl, black bears, and red-cockaded woodpeckers largely because they are accessible only by boat. (I’ve yet to see a red-cockaded woodpecker or recognize it if I have.)
The banks of the creek are wooded with bald cypress, water tupelo, and black gum. Acadian flycatchers and American kestrels fly overhead. Osprey and bald eagles perch overlooking the water where double-crested cormorant fish. At night, Rafinesque Big-eared Bats hawk insects and moths; they roost in hollow trees during the day. It’s legal to hunt black bears in the Chowan Game Lands but difficult. The soil is Dorovan muck, as much as ten feet thick in places, made of decomposing moss, leaves, roots, and twigs. There are no roads. The only way to remove a bear from the swamp is by boat. It’s not a popular method among most bear hunters.