What Can You Do in One Day at Lake Mattamuskeet

Lake Mattamuskeet is a shallow coastal lake located in Hyde County, North Carolina. It is the biggest natural lake in the state, as well as a national wildlife refuge, attracting thousands of birds and animals.

Markie and I made a trip to Lake Mattamuskeet two weekends ago. It was a sunny Sunday, and we saw one other person when we were in the area. We couldn’t find many maps or reviews prior to the trip, but the area is very well maintained, with plentiful road signs and printed booklets.

The area is great for photographing –

Area Overview

There are three boat ramps and a few hiking trails. I recommend enter from the west side of the area, do a scenic drive along the south side of the lake, explore a couple of well maintained hiking trails (0.5 miles each), and drive through the road in the middle of the lake.

Things To Do at Lake Mattamuskeet

Scenic Driving

The biggest highlight of the trip is probably driving along Highway 94, which cuts through the middle of the lake. There are a few observation overlooks along the highway. If you have time, be sure to stop, sit down at these overlooks, and enjoy the serenity of the lake. This portion of the highway was built in 1940s.

We took some best pictures at (1) Central Boat Ramp and (2) Observation Overlook.


We explored 2 hiking trails while we visited the area. Both of the trails are short, easy to walk, and very picturesque. We got to see a lot of birds during the hikes, but unfortunately, no bears or alligators as we were secretly hoping.

Fisher Slough Trail, as shown in (3) in the map, is a well maintained 0.5-mile trail at the end of the East Canal Road. It loops around the road, and has a wooden deck extending into Fisher Slough, a natural open water wetland adjacent to Lake Mattamuskeet. The deck cuts through a dense area of water celery and other water plants.

Another 0.5-mile trail, New Holland Trail will place you in the middle of the a wetland where birds, cranes, and swans reside in. This trail starts at (4) in the map. You wouldn’t miss it because there is small parking lot and a kiosk right at the entrance. Most of the trail is half stone filled trail and half wooden boardwalk. There were about fifty frogs resting on the stone trail when we visited. As we walked by, the frogs jumped back to the wetland.

Swimming / Kayaking

We did not put our kayaks into the water as there is a cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms. We saw a few water warning sign and talked to one of the volunteers at the refuge.

More Resources

Mattamuskeet Species List from US Fish & Wildlife Service website, where birds and animals seen in the area are listed as well as their seasonal appearances.

Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge Tearsheet is a two-pager offering a brief introduction to the history and current development of the area.

Mattamuskeet Fishing Regulations and Map (2020-2021) and Mattamuskeet Hunting Regulations and Map (2019-2020) can be helpful for those who are interested in these activities.

A more comprehensive list can be found directly on FWS’s website.

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