Part of North Carolina’s coastal plain, The Sounds is in the northeastern region of the state on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. The Peninsula’s 3,200 square miles are home to about 115,000 people in Beaufort, Bertie, Washington, and Tyrrell counties, along with mainland Dare and Hyde counties (the figure does not include residents of the Outer Banks). The Sounds is framed by Albemarle Sound to the north, Croatan Sound to the east, and the Pamlico Sound/River to the south.
The Sounds has low, flat terrain, with much of the land only a few inches to a few feet above sea level. In addition to the water around it, The Sounds holds the state’s two largest natural lakes (Mattamuskeet and Phelps), and is traversed by several rivers as well. The dominant natural ecosystems are bottomland swamps, marshes, pocosins, and pine forests—all of which thrive in the low, moist environments found throughout the region.
About 20% of The Sound’s area is held in some sort of conservation status (wildlife refuges, state parks, conservancy land, etc.). Much of the rest is either cropland or commercial forests.