Celebrating Ecotourism and Regional Heritage

Roanoke River Partners is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural and historical identity of the Roanoke River Region.  The organization encourages resource conservation and sustainable economic development, achieving its goals through unique ecotourism initiatives.

Ecotourism promotes environmental stewardship while providing economic and social benefits to local communities.  Such place-based ventures build on local natural, cultural and community assets; create jobs and small businesses that are tied to “place” and cannot be outsourced; and provide development opportunities where traditional approaches fail.


Flowing from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia across the Coastal Plain to the Albemarle Sound and Atlantic Ocean, the Roanoke River runs through the largest intact bottomland hardwood swamp forest east of the Mississippi. Five of North Carolina’s poorest counties can be found in the region along with an abundance of wildlife and recreational opportunities. Historically, people along the Roanoke have depended on the river's abundance for their own food as well as for commercial goods: naval stores, lumber, cypress shingles, fish and more. Recognizing this river’s value, Roanoke River Partners created and now manages 15 camping platforms along its Roanoke Paddle Trail—providing paddlers and nature enthusiasts alike with the opportunity to experience firsthand the river’s beauty and unique wildlife.

Roanoke River Partners received support from the Conservation Fund's Resourceful Communities program—specifically its Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF). Through the CNEF, Resourceful Communities invests in innovative triple bottom line projects.  Grants average $8,000-$12,000, with a maximum award of $15,000 and all funded projects reflect the needs and visions of the communities.  Funding has supported a variety of projects, including:  ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, youth leadership development, alternative energy, and more.

By utilizing our CNEF, Roanoke River Partners recently purchased the Rosenwald School—a schoolhouse built in the early twentieth century that provided  public education for African Americans in the South.  Roanoke River Partners plans to adapt the building for use as a cultural, community and ecotourism center.  The first acquisition of a Rosenwald School by a conservation-oriented group, this project will enhance job creation and tourism in the region.

Why This Project Matters

The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program has worked in partnership to protect the area’s distinctive habitat through land and water protection as well as “creating new economies” that protect the environment while providing economic and social benefits. 

Working to support goals identified by Roanoke River Partners, Resourceful Communities has provided funding for their projects as well as direct technical assistance for fundraising and strategic planning and training at our regional leadership workshops.  Through Resourceful Communities, Roanoke River Partners has successfully partnered with other community groups in the region, including Concerned Citizens of Tillery, Roanoke River Mayors Association and Sylvan Heights Bird Park.

Roanoke River Partners’ paddle trail boasts 11 camping platforms and provides paddlers an opportunity to see firsthand this unique natural habitat.

—Lucia Peel, Roanoke River Partners

Learn More

Visit Roanoke River Partners at www.roanokeriverpartners.org