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 Yadkin-Pee Dee River Watershed Facts

Compiled by Andrew L. Mackie, Elkin Valley Trails Association

Source: Wikipedia: Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin, which is footnoted; various sources, and personal experience   


1.       The Yadkin-Pee Dee River Watershed, or Drainage Basin, is a large river basin in the eastern United States, covering around 7,221 square miles, making it the second largest in the state of North Carolina.

2.       Its headwaters rise near Blowing Rock, NC, and the basin drains to the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay, east of Georgetown, South Carolina.

3.       The majority of the basin is within the Piedmont geographical area of the United States, but it also drains the coastal plains of North and South Carolina, and parts of the Appalachian Mountains, in North Carolina.  It is part of the larger South Atlantic-Gulf Basin.

4.       The watershed starts in the northwestern corner of North Carolina near Blowing Rock.  Another starting point is slightly into Carroll and Patrick counties of Virginia.

5.       The watershed extends south by southeast, crossing the south central border of South Carolina, with slightly more than half of the watershed in North Carolina.

6.       The basin covers an area approximately 433 miles long and includes 5,862 streams and rivers, 22,998 acres of lakes and has an area of 7,221 square miles.

7.       Over 22,988 acres of the basin is covered by lakes.

8.       The basin is home to 93 separate municipalities, in 21 counties, with an estimated human population of 1,463,535 (US Census, 2000).

9.       The basin covers a number of geographical areas, starting at the Appalachian Mountains and the North Carolina Foothills continuing through the central Piedmont area, into the Sandhills region and Coastal Plains before finally exiting into the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay, South Carolina.

10.   The watershed is home to a number of unique geological features, such as Pilot Mountain, a 2,421 foot metamorphic quartzite monadnock.

11.   Additionally, the region is home to a number of national and state parks and other wildlife wonders, including Blowing Rock, parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Tanglewood Park, the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge (45, 000 acres), and Uwharrie National Forest (50,000 acres).

12.   The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge (8,443 acres) is a wildlife preserve for waterfowl and lies within the confines of the watershed.

13.   There are 38 aquatic rare species within the basin, including the Shortnose sturgeon and Carolina heelsplitter, which are listed as federally endangered.

14.   Bald eagles can be found in the location of Badin Lake.  Bald eagle sightings are so common in the area that Alcoa’s subsidiary, Yadkin, Inc., developed a Bald Eagle Management Plan.  The eagles migrate through, but do not generally nest in the area.

15.   Also, about 2013, an ornithologist visited the Elkin Valley Trail and identified enough different bird species to qualify the area along Big Elkin Creek as a birding site.

16.   In North Carolina, 42 percent of the state’s dairy cattle are raised in the basin, with half of that number in the South Yadkin Sub-Basin alone.

17.   36 percent of the NC poultry population of 66 million birds are raised in the basin.

18.   The basin supports 2% of North Carolina’s swine production.

19.   From 1982 to 1992, crop lands decreased by 46%, while urban development increased by 38%

20.   Five major lakes were created in the watershed, all of which are in North Carolina: W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, High Rock Lake, Tuckertown Reservoir , Badin Lake, and Falls Reservoir.

21.   All the major lakes, except W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, generate hydroelectric power for the “Yadkin Project”, which is under the control of the Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA) and licensed to operate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

22.   The combined Yadkin Project has a total generating capacity of almost 215 megawatts of electricity.

23.   Idols Dam (1898) near Clemmons was the first place to generate electricity on the Yadkin River by Henry Fries of Salem.  It is now a low-water dam with the generating equipment in ruins.

24.   A number of large rivers flow with the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Watershed, which totals nearly 5,946 linear river miles.  In North Carolina, these rivers include the Yadkin itself, Reddies, Roaring, Big Elkin Creek/Elkin River, Mitchell, Fisher, Ararat, Abbotts Creek, South Yadkin, and Uwharrie.

25.   In South Carolina, major rivers include the Lynches, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Black, and Waccamaw.

26.   There are a number of water quality issues within river basins.  In an average basin, between 5 and 58 tons per square mile per year of find-grained sediment are removed from the surrounding land in surface runoff, but the Yadkin-Pee Dee Basin sees 300 tons per square mile per year in runoff due to rapid population growth and agriculture.

27.   Thirty-nine percent of rivers within the North Carolina section of the Basin fail to meet the state water quality standards and are listed as “impaired” (FWI = flowing while impaired?).

Fish report for Big Elkin Creek and Elkin Creek 

 Species collected on March 20, 2015 from Big Elkin Creek near old NC 268, Surry County (without too much effort using one backpack electrofisher) for the middle school demonstration:

1.       Bluehead Chub

2.       Redlip Shiner

3.       Highback Chub

4.       Rosyside Dace

5.       Creek chub

6.       Satinfin Shiner

7.       White Sucker

8.       Redbreast Sunfish

9.       Warmouth

10.   Pumpkinseed

11.   Largemouth Bass

12.   Carolina Fantail Darter

13.   Tessellated Darter


Species collected on June 22, 2006 from Elkin Creek at SR 2044 (C B Eller School Road), Wilkes County as part of NC DWR’s fish assessment monitoring program (see PDF files above):

1.       Bluehead Chub

2.       Redlip Shiner

3.       Highback Chub

4.       Rosyside Dace

5.       Fathead Minnow

6.       Creek Chub

7.       White Sucker

8.       Brassy Jumprock

9.       Margined Madtom

10.   Redbreast Sunfish

11.   Bluegill

12.   Carolina Fantail Darter

13.   Tessellated Darter

14.   Piedmont Darter