National Wildlife Refuge
85 Mattamuskeet Road
Swan Quarter, NC 27885
FAX: (252) 926-1743
Mattamuskette is often referred to as the “other” lighthouse, because that is how it is popularly known. In fact, Mattamuskeet is not truly a lighthouse: Mattamuskeet was originally a pumphouse, with it’s goal being to empty Lake Mattamuskeet. In 1916, the lake covered over 50, 000 acres, with an average depth of 2 feet. There was no natural drainage, and was coveted as rich farm land. An offer from private investors , eventually known as New Holland Farms, was accepted for purchase, and by 1916, the world’s largest pumping project began, powered by 4 coal- fueled steam engines, and assisted by a 130 mile canal route. The canals directed the water on a 7 mile route to nearby Pamlico Sound.
Keith Green, our good friend and generous sharer of photos, allowed us the use of his 2010 pics.
Vanessa Towell with her 1987 photo of the lighthouse..note the changes and improvements done. Due to budget cuts, all scheduled renovations have now been put on hold.
Waterfowl: 1987 and 2010
A truly checkered history accompanies this series post. Originally, the lake was on the migratory path or home to a wide variety of waterfowl and wildlife: swans, snow geese, falcons, eagles, a wide assortment of ducks, and many more ..along with otters, black bears, etc. However, by the sixties, and with changes in the migratory patterns, bird counts dropped..for example: although orignally over 150,000 Canadian Geese wintered on the lake, that count is down now to around 6,000.
Vanessa Towell, one of our Facebook followers, kindly offered the use of her 1987 pictures of Mattamuskeet, so that we could show the waterfowl at that time..Vanessa mentioned in her note to NC Culture that at times, you literally could not see the lake, due to the massive numbers of birds.
The above picture from Chris Jones Photo and Video is a very good example of just how shallow this lake is.
Mattamuskeet is considered to be a Algonquain word possibly meaning “dry dust”, and legend attributes the shallow lake bed to a slow peat fire. The lake went thru several hands after pump problems and canal problems allowed water back into the lake bed. In 1932, the pumps shut down, water returned, and owners sold the land to the federal government as a wildlife sanctuary, and the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge was born.
William Ryan is a photographer we have just recently discovered, and he also kindly allowed us the use of his pictures. William does not yet have a professional page, but you can contact him thru his Facebook page.
Eventually, the Civilian Conservation Corps stepped in, converting the pump house into guest quarters, shortened the smokestack from 125 to 112 feet, added a spiral staircase, and Mattamuskeet Lodge opened its’ doors in 1937. However, the refuge closed goose hunting, due to dwindling counts, and the lodge joined in the closing. Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the Mattamuskeet Lodge Committee, volunteer services began clearing vines, scraping plaster, and doing pretty much whatever they could to reclaim the lodge, and the efforts were boosted by the non-profit Partnership for the Sounds. Presently it doubles as a research field center and educational resource, along with hosting events for the public, even though it sat unattended for around 20 years…quite a tribute to many determined efforts! The lodge was placed on the National Historic Register in 1980,
Proudly displaying a blue and white tower, painted oddly similar to Bodie Lighthouse, and with a cheerful red tiled roof, It’s quite a sight to see, as you can tell. Located in lovely Hyde County, you can follow signs from both US 264 or NC 94. According to the source used, the lodge is not open on Mondays, but has 9 to 4 hours Tuesday thru Saturday, and 2 to 5 on Sundays. You can find more information at the Mattamuskeet Lodge webpage
We would especially like to thank the following pages, along with William Ryan and Vanessa Towell, for allowing us to use their photos:
Any errors in this post are NC Culture’s errors, and NC Culture’s alone. Very convoluted history accompanies Lake Mattamuskeet, and some interpretations may be wrong.