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The Lower Cape Fear River Program is a large-scale water quality and environmental assessment program covering the Cape Fear River Estuary and a large portion of the lower Cape Fear River watershed.
Mission and Objectives

A collaboration of academia, government, industry, and the public, the program is located at and administered by the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at WilmingtonProgram objectives are to develop an understanding of the fundamental scientific processes shaping and controlling the ecology of the Cape Fear River system and provide a mechanism for information exchange and public education. Numerous physical, chemical, and biological measurements are collected at thirty-four different sites on a regular basis so biologists, chemists, physicists, and geologists will be able to understand freshwater, estuarine, and nearshore marine processes in the Cape Fear River basin. This research will complement and refine the current basinwide management plans being developed by the

North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Currently, a program in the middle Cape Fear River basin is performing similar monitoring activities and a program in the upper Cape Fear River basin is in the planning stages. With the commencement of monitoring in all three basins, regulators will have comprehensive scientific based information with which to form educated decisions regarding activities in the Cape Fear River basin.

Why is the Cape Fear River Important?

The Cape Fear River winds for 200 miles through the heart of the North Carolina piedmont, crossing the coastal plain, and empties into the great Atlantic Ocean near Southport.  The river begins near Greensboro and Winston-Salem as two rivers, the Deep River and the Haw River. These two rivers converge near Moncure to form the Cape Fear River. The Black River joins the Cape Fear 15 miles above Wilmington, and the Northeast Cape Fear River enters the system at Wilmington. The 35 miles of river between Wilmington and the ocean is called the Cape Fear Estuary because of the tidal influence and saline waters.  This area of the river is extremely important for saltwater animals because of its function as a nursery for juvenile fish, crabs, and shrimp. The Cape Fear River system is North Carolina’s largest river system whose basin covers 9,000 square miles and encompasses streams in 29 of the state’s 100 counties, and is the most industrialized of all of North Carolina's rivers.

The river is an important natural resource that supports many uses including:

• Industry
• Transportation
• Recreation
• Drinking water
• Aesthetic Enjoyment

Monitoring & Research

Station Map
Station Descriptions
Monitoring Parameters

Fin Fish Monitoring
Benthic Monitoring




Water quality within the Lower Cape Fear River Watersheds 2014

Current Events
Advisory Board & Technical Committee Info

TMDL Information

Cape Fear River Basin Coalitions Monitoring Database

River Run Data Visualization

QA/QC Manual

Advisory Board

Technical Committee

Memorandum of

Contact Information

Related Web Sites

Students as Scientists

UNCW Aquatic Ecology Laboratory


For webpage questions please email mciverm(at)uncw.edu