About the Upper Catawba River Basin

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The upper Catawba basin refers to the portions of the Catawba River and its tributaries above Lake Norman including four major lakes (James, Rhodhiss, Hickory and Lookout Shoals). The upper basin extends to the source of the Catawba River near Old Fort, to the headwaters of the Linville River and Wilson Creek on Grandfather Mountain, to those of the Johns River near Blowing Rock, and includes the cities of Hickory, Lenoir, Linville, Marion and Morganton.

Linville Falls from Chimney View

The upper Catawba River basin faces many challenges including steep slope development, logging activities, plant nurseries, the highest density of septic tank systems in North Carolina, and agricultural run-off.  The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation recently hired an Nurseries along the upper Catawba Riveradvocate to assist the Catawba Riverkeeper in focusing on the issues in the upper Catawba basin, including the headwaters of  the Catawba River.

Millions of visitors each year seek out the natural splendor of the upper Catawba River basin, including Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blowing Rock, and sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest.  The Linville River, one of only four state-designated Natural and Scenic Rivers in North Carolina, flows over spectacular Linville Falls and through the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.  Wilson Creek is one of only four National Wild and Scenic Rivers in North Carolina and a favorite destination for hikers, anglers and whitewater enthusiasts.

Wilson Creek by Kevin Knight

Tourism and development are critical to the upper Catawba basin economy, yet they place extraordinary pressure on water resources.  The upper Catawba basin faces many of the same environmental challenges as the lower Catawba basin, including sedimentation and stormwater runoff from residential and commercial development.  Other impacts to the upper Catawba basin may be more acute than in the lower basin, including mining, logging, and ornamental shrub and tree nurseries. 

Maps of the Upper Catawba River Basin

To view maps and satellite photos of the Catawba-Wateree basin, click on one of the following links:

Information about specific areas in the upper basin

Information about issues in the upper basin


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559