One of the many assets of being in Hardeeville is our proximity to so many great places to visit. Among other attractions, we are surrounded by outstanding natural resources and many groups and organizations determined to preserve these treasures. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent example.
In 1937 James and Ellen Bruce transformed the former plantation into a hunting preserve. Care was taken to ensure that the landscape was suitable for attracting and sustaining wildlife. The islands were a functioning farm as well, with cattle and corn fields. The next owners, Edward Starr and James Barker, continued these efforts for more than 20 years before donating the group of islands to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975.
I was fortunate to have Alice Smith Boyd as my tour guide for my first trip to this refuge. Alice was the youngest of the only three families that lived on Pinckney Island as a hunting preserve. Her father was a manager for the preserve and her mother served as secretary treasurer. Alice is currently a volunteer for the wildlife refuge with wonderful, personal stories to share.
When you visit:
Bring sunscreen, bug spray and drinking water
Wear comfortable hiking shoes and have trail tires for bicycles
Come at low tide for access to more areas of trails
Pinckney Island is accessible to visitors by 14 miles of trails designed for walking or biking. You may wish to see the entire island or choose from one of the suggested trips recommended by the refuge. The islands are left natural and the only changes made to the landscape are to accommodate the wildlife. There are no restrooms or drinking water sources on the island for this reason. The land and the wildlife population are priority. This is why a visit here is so amazingly unique.
The island has many contrasting views of wooded areas, open marshland, and salty waterways. The plant and animal life here is astoundingly varied and you may see something new each visit. There are opportunities to study the ecosystem in a very close up environment. Many visitors come for the photography opportunities alone!
Birds to Watch For:
Black Crown Knight Heron
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Animals of the Saltmarsh:
Sand Fiddler Crab
Atlantic Ribbed Mussel
The most popular of the trips suggested by the refuge is the hike to Ibis Pond. A round trip hike to the pond is 1.2 miles. The pathways are wide and kept clear by volunteers. It is a smooth walk with so much to see, hear and smell. The pond itself is a powerful lesson in Lowcountry life.
On the day of our visit there were hundreds of birds surrounding Ibis Pond. This pond was designed by the US Fish and Wildlife as the island rookery (a breeding ground for the birds). The Ibis had waited for the other birds to build nests, hatch and raise their nestlings. Using the deserted nests, the Ibis were now feeding and caring for their own babies in the rookery. A true example of “if you build it, they will come”.
Adjacent to Ibis Pond is the refuge Butterfly Garden. This area was designed and cared for by several local supporting organizations. On the morning we were there it was filled with the floating beauties enjoying blooming salvia, passion vine, butterfly weed and lantana. Hummingbirds were enjoying the feast of nectar as well.
Another popular trail is the trip around the Nini Chapin and Starr Ponds. Both spots were named for contributors to the refuge environment. Mr. Ed Starr was a former land owner and Nini Chapin was a volunteer so committed to the cause that she purchased a tractor to cultivate the land when there was no other funding to supply one. This trip almost ensures that you will see alligators, turtles, wood ducks and deer. Bald Eagles have also been known to frequent the area.
The trails to White Point will give you a 7.8 mile round trip hike or bicycle ride. Time your visit during low tide for the driest trip or go at high tide and wade through shallow water across the pathway. From this point on the island there are views of Parris Island and Beaufort that are about a mile across the waterway. Keep in mind that no fishing is allowed in the refuge ponds, but you may fish in the estuarine waters adjacent to the refuge. White Point is an excellent spot for this.
So, the next time you are visiting Hardeeville and you have some spare time to embrace the Lowcountry, take the short drive out to Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge. If you have visited Hilton Head Island, you have driven right past it as you crossed the island bridges. Pack a lunch, bring the family and enjoy the Lowcountry way of life.
Argent Lumber Company Engine #7
May 1, 2013
Visit from Hardeeville:
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge