Situated in the middle of the Inner Banks of Eastern NC, Greenville and Pitt County are fortunate to have rivers, creeks, swamps, lakes, and ponds to explore! The Tar River is a nearly 200-mile long river that flows southeast beginning near the North Carolina/Virginia border through Greenville and Pitt County to the wide estuary of the Pamlico Sound separating the mainland from the Outer Banks and Atlantic Ocean. Though technically the same river, once you pass under the US Highway 17 bridge between Greenville and Little Washington, the Tar River becomes the more brackish Pamlico River as it then merges into the sound. The Tar River gets its name from North Carolina’s history as a naval stores colony, where our dense longleaf pine forests provided much of the tar, turpentine, and pitch needed for shipbuilding and transporting goods throughout the colonies and abroad. Like all coastal rivers, it is also due to this abundance of trees, and the tannins their leaves produce, combined with the stirring and movement of rich sediment during storms that the Tar River gets its brown color.
Once a main artery of transportation by navigable by steamboats, the Tar River is now a peaceful slow-moving river shaded by beautiful old-growth trees with tributary creeks and tupelo and cypress swamps to explore by kayak, paddleboard, or recreational boats! Enjoy lots of wildlife sightings along the banks of deer, beavers, turtles, bald eagles, herrings, osprey, and more!
Experience the Tar River by booking a guided tour or renting a kayak, canoe, paddleboat, or SUP board from local outfitters and launch from the Greenville Town Common for a leisurely 3.5-mile paddle down to Port Terminal Boat Access. Sandbars appear and shift during the season and make great spots to stop for a break. Looking for even more adventure? Paddle and spend the night at any of the three Pitt County camping platforms on the Pamlico-Tar River Water Trail!