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Milltail Creek
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Rural life was often hard, especially in the swamp. In the swamps around Milltail Creek, now part of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, there were two ways to make a living. When the bald cypress and white cedar were all cut and the lumber mills closed, only one way remained – bootlegging.

Milltail Creek had been the route to hall timber to the mills in Elizabeth City. When there was no more timber, it became the route to haul bootlegged whiskey to market. During Prohibition, the swamps around Milltail Creek became one of the largest producers of illegal whiskey in the United States. Where there was bootlegged whiskey, there were revenue agents trying to interdict it.

Prohibition became law in 1920 and ended in 1933, less than 90 years ago. This shack on Milltail Creek may be at least that old. The view from the back porch commanded the creek. Anything passing upstream or down couldn’t escape observation. I suspect who ever lived here had a keen interest in that traffic, especially the revenue agents.


Print Quality

Our archival quality images are printed on Moab Exhibition paper using Canon Lucia inks, providing lustrous reproducttions with a board color gamut that resists aging. For more information on the technology used, see our page on print quality.

The images on this site have been highly compressed to speed page loading. Some artifacts from the process may be visible but the image files used for printing are high resolution.

Sound Rivers

Five percent of the profits from all sales on this site are donated to Sound Rivers, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the quality of rivers on the Carolina coastal plain.


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Sunlight dapples wetland grasses and a bald cypress engulfing an abandoned shack on the bank of Milltail Creek, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

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