The Northwest River today is the Cape Fear. With a beginning at Wilmington NC. It meanders thru Bladen County near Elizabethtown, by Fayetteville, into Lake Jordan between Raleigh and Chapel Hill NC.
The Cape Fear today has two brances, one is the N.E. Cape Fear, and the southern branch that I just described, was the Nortwest River in the 1700s, and into the 1800s.
Columbus County was created from Bladen and Brunswick Counties in 1808, so...any families that lived in Bladen County prior to 1808 may very well be in todays Columbus County.
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