Cape Fear River Atlas – First Edition, 2016

The Virginia Canals & Navigations Society is proud to announce the publication of the Cape Fear River Atlas, First Edition – 2016.
Authors W.E. Trout, III, John Hairr and Nancy R. Trout.
This new atlas is 151 pages plus covers and is plastic spiral bound.


Before railroads were unheard of, rivers were the superhighways of the time – the arteries of commerce. Rivers carried the products of the farm, of the mine, and of the forest to market – preferably to coastal markets and to the world.

North Carolina had only one river with a deep-water coastal port, and that was the Cape Fear. All of her other major rivers run out of the state, or into coastal sounds with only shallow openings to the sea.

Put a dot at the center of the state, and that is where the Cape Fear begins. It was here, at the junction of the Deep and Haw rivers, that the Deep and Haw River Company laid out the town of Haywood in 1799. Everyone expected that white-water freight boats called batteaux, and later steamboats, would soon be plying the river, making Haywood one of the most prosperous cities in the state, and probably the state capital. But it never happened.

THE CAPE FEAR RIVER ATLAS is the latest in a series of river atlases for Virginia and North Carolina, volunteer projects published by the Virginia Canals & Navigations Society. We hope that it will encourage interest in the fascinating history and archaeology of navigation on the Cape Fear and in river corridor planning. If you are interested, please join VC&NS and help us help you and your favorite river.

This atlas focuses on the 240 miles of the Cape Fear which boats once navigated, from the House in the Horseshoe on Deep River, down to the Atlantic Ocean. This includes the river in twelve counties: Moore, Chatham, Alamance, Orange, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Bladen, Columbus, Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover. Here the Cape Fear is literally filled with history. We’ve tried to record and interpret the early canals, the batteau sluices, the locks and dams built for steamboats, the fish dams, the wing dams, the iron furnaces, the mills, and anything else in and along the river. With this atlas you can get out on the river and see them for yourself!

Copies of THE CAPE FEAR RIVER ATLAS are available by mail from the canal society at for $35.00 each, plus $5 postage (plus tax if you are in VA). We encourage museums and outfitters to stock our atlases. A large wholesale discount is available for quantity sales (contact Please come visit our museum and headquarters at 3806 S. Amherst Hwy, Madison Heights, VA 24572. Open by appointment:, 252-301-1747.