The Roanoke River, once known as the Moratuck, derived its name from an Indian group These Indians had a village by that name upon the river’s northern bank at present Cedar Landing in Bertie County. Both names, Moratuck and Roanoke, seem to be Algonquin.
An English story claims that the Moratuck River was changed to the Roanoke River when an Indian was seen propelling his dugout canoe upon it with oaken oars.
“What are you doing there?” he asked.
“Rowin’ Oak,” replied the native American, ill-tutored in English speech and expression.
Englishmen saw humor in the Indian’s clumsy reply and repeated it so often that the name of the river was changed to Roanoke.
The Roanoke River is formed by the Dan and Staunton Rivers which rise in Virginia and unite at Clarksville in Mecklenburg County. The river passes into North Carolina and runs southeast. It forms a natural boundary between Halifax and Northampton County. The overall length of the Roanoke River is about 230 miles.
The river is the only natural spawning ground for the North Carolina species of striped bass-Rockfish. (There is seven known species of striped bass.) This fish, which is found from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland, sometimes weighs up to 100 pounds. Shad and herring, along with the Rockfish, attract hundreds of fishermen daily(during season) from all over the United States to the Roanoke River landing in Weldon.
In 1875 the Roanoke River showed its fierce strength as it washed out the Seaboard Railroad bridge and flooded Weldon’s business district. In 1940 the river once more exhibited its strength by flooding half of Weldon, destroying many buildings and washing away precious farm topsoil. The after effects were much greater, as outbreaks of malaria in Northampton and Halifax Counties claimed several lives.
In 1975 this river, supposedly controlled by 3 dams, showed its strength again. It rose one and one-half feet above flood level and flooded low lying farmlands and trapped cattle for about six weeks.
Today the river is becoming increasingly more valuable by providing the surrounding population with plenty of recreation and resources.