The Albemarle Sound is a large inland body of fresh water located at the confluence of the (listed counter-clockwise starting at the northeast corner) North, Pasquotank, Little, Perquimans, Yeopim, Chowan, Roanoke, Scuppernong, and Alligator Rivers. At the eastern end it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Outer Banks, a chain of narrow barrier islands where the beach resort of Kitty Hawk is located. Roanoke Island, the site of the first English settlement --known as the "Lost Colony"-- is at the southeastern corner of the Albemarle, where it connects to Pamlico Sound. The Albemarle Sound is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and a favorite boating and fishing region. The closest access to the Atlantic Ocean is at Oregon Inlet, just below Roanoke Island.
On the northern side, Elizabeth City is the largest town, commercial center, and county seat of Pasquotank County. The towns of Hertford (Perquimans Co.) and Edenton (Chowan Co.) are also located along the rivers feeding in from the north. The southern side is very rural, but hosts the small towns of Columbia, Roper, and Plymouth.
North Carolina's Albemarle Sound and the Pamlico Sound to the south are the primary bodies of water forming the second largest estuary system in the United States. Only the Chesapeake Bay is larger. There are seven sounds that make up the estuarine system; the Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Pamlico, Bogue, Core and Roanoke. The Albemarle-Pamlico region has over 9,000 miles of freshwater rivers and streams and nearly 2 million acres of estuarine waters. The region's watershed covers approximately 30,000 square miles. The Chowan, Roanoke, Pasquotank, Alligator, Tar-Pamlico, and Neuse are six major river basins that flow into the Sounds.
The Albemarle-Pamlico Sound has over 75 species of fish and shellfish. Bass-fishing is a top sport in the area. Anadromous fish, fish that live in the oceans but migrate up freshwater rivers to spawn, use the estuarine system as a habitat for spawning. These fish include Striped Bass (Rock), Herring and Shad.
Tourism, recreation, resort development, and commercial fishing are economically important to the region. The numerous large rivers and sounds, as well as the nearby Gulf Stream off Hatteras Island, help maintain generally moderate temperatures year-round.