How Deep Is North Carolina’s Legendary Neuse River?

Sunrise on the Neuse 3
© James Bossert/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Katie Downey

Published: January 29, 2024

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North Carolina is filled with breathtaking rivers, lakes, and beaches. It also has some amazing national forests, parks, and mountains. There is little that NC doesn’t have to offer for nature lovers. The 275 miles that make up the Neuse River are only located in NC. It crosses over six counties and 73 municipalities, which makes it the longest river in NC. This historic river was named after a Native American tribe and has loads of nostalgia for many. But how deep is North Carolina’s legendary Neuse River?

The Historic Neuse River

Longest River in North Carolina - Neuse River

Without the Neuse River, New Bern, NC, would not have become the much-needed port needed for new colonies.


The Neuse River was once a place of solitude as it wound through what would later become the state of North Carolina. Unbelievably, it is six nautical miles wide, making it one of the widest rivers in the U.S. There is no shortage of stories that shaped this river and its heritage. Archeologists believe the NC River is also one of the oldest rivers in the U.S. The river dates back to its first Native American settlers over 14,000 years ago.

Arthur Barlowe was an English explorer who named the Neuse River in 1584 after the Native American tribe, the Neusiok, which means peace. The┬áTuscarora┬átribe called it “gow-ta-no,” which means “pine in water.” By the 1700s, the river played a very important role in the formation of new colonies. Just before that time, New Bern was founded by Swiss colonists and, because of the Neuse River, had become a busy port and colonial capital. It continued to be of great use all the way to the mid-1800s for the area’s community. Suppliers and traders used the river to transport crops and supplies from other NC towns all the way to New Bern when needed.

How Deep is the Neuse River?

Neuse River during autumn in Raleigh, NC

Parts of the Neuse River have become favorites among kayakers and canoers.

©James Willamor from Raleigh, NC, USA / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

The Neuse River stretches for nearly 300 miles, with parts of it being six miles across, but how deep is the massive river? The river is typically between 8 and 12 feet deep. Some areas may be slightly more or less, and many things can cause a change in those numbers. If the area has seen an unusual amount of rain or snow, it will cause a rise in the depth. In contrast, usually, hot temperatures may cause more evaporation than would normally occur. If the area the river is being measured is in a drought, that will cause a decrease in depth.

On January 15th, 2024, on the Neuse River in Clayton, NC, the depth measures six feet. On January 8th, 2024 near Goldsboro, the river measured 16 feet deep. In October 2016, there was a record-high crest of 29.5 feet following Hurricane Matthew. Some areas of the Neuse River can get as low as one or two feet.

The Neuse River is beautiful and is an amazing experience for those wanting to escape everyday life and have a fun day kayaking on the river. Who knows, maybe you’ll find an arrowhead or some fossils in it!

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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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