a pamphlet prepared by
William Simpson, Michael Murdoch and Mackey Garner
CONTENTS: History & Background, Natural History, The Neusiok Trail
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
Native Americans occupied the territory of the present Croatan National Forest
long before the arrival of European settlers. A population of 17,600 Indians
were living in the Carolina coastal plain in 1584. Among the Indians, the
Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes were about evenly represented, with about 7,000
people each. Siouan tribes comprised the remainder.
Each of these main tribes contributed traits to the Indians of the Croatan area
but the principal contributors were the Tuscaroras and the Core (one of the
smaller Iroquoian tribes) who lived in the area the longest. They built and
named several villages along the Neuse River, its tributaries, and on the
shores of Core Sound. "Croatan" literally means "town talk" or town where
councils were held. "Neusiok" was the name of one of the villages on the Neuse
River in the vicinity of Clubfoot Creek and provided the name for the tribal
group, the river and the hiking trail.
The densely populated villages were usually located on high bluffs overlooking
the water and were often protected by a stockade wall. The houses were typically
constructed from a circle of poles that were set into the ground then bent
together at the top to form a dome-shaped structure and covered with bark.
Fishing was the main source of food, but crops, including corn and peaches,
supplemented the Indian diet. The Indians ranged over a wide region and many of
their trading paths became routes for North Carolina's major highways.
In the early 1700's the coastal Indians were forced off their lands by white
settlers. They joined the Indian League of Nations and their descendants now
reside in northern Pennsylvania and New York.
The Croatan National Forest lies on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. It
presents a large variety of land conditions: ancient sand ridges (derived from
barrier islands marooned by lowering sea levels 10,000-150,000 years ago),
bottomlands of black organic soil, pine savannas, and raised bogs called pocosins
(an Indian term meaning "swamp on a hill"). Sandy beaches occur along the Neuse
River. Low-lying areas are subject to flooding, especially near the Neuse where
wind tides can dramatically raise or lower the water level.
The variety of soil types is reflected in the wide variety of Forest vegetation.
Greenbrier, bay, smilax and titi form the dense impenetrable growths in low
areas such as pocosins and slash drains located between the sand ridges.
Carnivorous plants such as the Venus fly trap, pitcher plant, sundew and
bladderworts also add their unique touch to the pocosins. Orchids including
the rosebud orchid, habernaria, grass pink, and adder's tongue thrive in pine
savannas. The dominant trees on the higher ground are the pines- loblolly,
longleaf, pond and shortleaf, but stands of oaks (at least a dozen species),
hickories and beech can be found on the sand ridges. Sweetgum, cypress and
maple occupy drains and bottom lands.
Black bears, bobcats, white-tail deer, raccoons, opossums, and grey squirrels
are the most notable mammaliam inhabitants. Ducks, geese and swan winter on the
lakes of the Forest. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker nests in several
areas of the Forest.
THE NEUSIOK TRAIL
The Neusiok Trail, part of the 700-mile North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail,
is the longest hiking trail in eastern North Carolina, running for 22 miles from
the Pinecliff Recreation Area on the Neuse River to the Newport River at Mill
The trail was laid out by the Carteret County Wildlife Club in 1971 and is
maintained by the Forest Service and the club. It lies entirely within the
National Forest, and passes through all the types of environments mentioned
above. There are several access points so that short or long stretches can be
While hiking the trail, the visitor is likely to see signs of wild turkeys
scratching in the oak-hickory stands, or red-tailed hawks, ospreys, and even
eagles soaring against the sky. Song birds (warbler populations peak in April
and May) flit through the undergrowth and the tree tops, challenging the
observer to get a glimpse sufficient for thier identification.Alligators are
common in Cahoogue and Hancock creeks in the NW region of the trail- look for
"logs" that don't belomg! The eyed visitor will also find reminders of the
human history of the Forest. There are barrels, jars and copper coils, the
remains of stills blown up by law officers in the not-too-distant past,
scattered along the trail in the region of Cahoogue Creek. Early in this century
much of the area along the Neuse was farmed and several graves are located near
the trail although their wooden markers are now almost completely lost.
During wet periods, the hiker is advised to wear water-proof shoes. The club and
the Forest Service have constructed wooden bridges over most of the low areas,
greatly enhancing the enjoyment of going through swampy regions. The Suffolk
scarp, the dune line of the ocean 10,000 years ago provides a dry footway for
several miles of the trail.
During 1998, the club constructed two open-front shelters with fire pits along
the trail. They are designed to give the weary hiker a place to rest or spend
the night under cover. Remember, there is no trash pick-up along the trail!
Please pack out your garbage.
The best time to hike the trail is October through May. Not only is the weather
often delightful in this period, but biting insects are seldom a problemthen.
Snakes, including a few venomous species, occur in the Croatan, but they are shy
and seldom seem especially in the cooler months.