Location: South Newport, Georgia
Webpage: National Wildlife Refuge
General Description: Established in 1962, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge is 2762 acres of saltwater marsh, grasslands, maritime forests, and upland pine forests located on an old military airfield that was used to train fighter pilots in World War II. The refuge is accessible by car with 4 miles of a one-way driving tour with interpretive signs and over 15 miles of hiking trails. Trials provide access to all the habitat types including freshwater ponds, loblolly pine plantations, a small longleaf pine restoration area, the remains of the air field runways, and the site of the Livingston estate built in the 1890s.
1) The driving tour is paved and provide good access to trails in each of the habitat types, except the saltwater marsh. I was surprised there was not a trail along the marsh.
2) The paved air field runways were a surprise and are a large part of the trials that can be hiked. Even though the airfield has been closed since the 1940s, there is very little vegetation growing on the airfield. The refuge has created a couple of fresh water ponds within the runways that they actively manage for wildlife, especially the shore birds. I am glad we visited in November, as the middle of the summer would be brutal on these old runways with very little shade.
3) Nothing remains of the Livingston estate except for a large fountain hidden back in the woods. It is rather strange seeing a large fountain in the middle of the forest, which is now the home of a large group of frogs.
4) As with all National Wildlife Refuges, Harris Neck provides access to hike in a wide range of habitats and many chances to view native wildlife and think about the natural system. As opposed to other Refuges, Harris Neck is still recovering its natural ecosystems and is interesting to visit for this reason. There are some older trees, but most of the forests are no more than 50 years old.