Location: Hardeeville, South Carolina
Webpage: National Wildlife Refuge
General Description: Savannah NWR extends over 29,000 acres of freshwater marshes, tidal rivers, creeks, and bottomland hardwoods. It provides a rich and diverse habitat for wildlife in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia. It is also on the Atlantic Flyway, which means a great number of birds that winter in the refuge and songbirds that migrate through the area in the spring and fall. The headquarters near Hardeeville includes an informative visitor center and a 4.5 mile driving tour the refuge in the area. This part of the refuge is dominated by old rice fields that were in production of over 100 years prior to the Civil War. The dikes, rice fields, and isolated tree hammocks are still much in evidence on the landscape. In fact, the refuge still uses the dikes and water ways in their management of the wetlands along the Savannah river.
1) The film in the visitor center is a very good overview of the refuge and its history. The exhibits includes a variety of information about the wildlife that can be found on the refuge. From bird calls to mounted specimens and vegetation, the visitor center can prepare you for what can be found on the driving tour.
2) The driving tour was a unique experience since it is a self guided tour that takes you around the old rice fields near the visitor center. Although none of the wooden buildings for the slaves or overseers still exist, the dikes and rice fields can still be easily seen on the landscape. It finally struck home that this land was used to produce rice for over a hundred years before the Civil War, which is a long time. It has been only 150 years since that time. These rice plantations were not just a passing fad, but a livelihood for many generations.
3) There were not very many people on the driving tour during the middle of the week and none of them were leaving their cars for more than just a short walk. Therefore, when Kal and I went for a couple of 2 mile hikes along the ditches we had the place to ourselves. That is, except for the hundred of ducks that fled ahead of us and the occasional snake and alligator. We had not seen any alligators up to this point, partly due to the cool weather, but Wednesday was nice and warm and the alligators had come out to sun. We saw small and medium size alligators just off the dikes and I am sure we missed quite a few since they did not move at all as we passed by. Therefore, when Kal came around a corner and surprised a large alligator that was on the dike itself they both jumped. The alligator into the water and Kal back along the trail. She was glad that was the last we saw of him (or her). The water moccasin sunning on the dike was also fascinating as we almost stepped on it before we saw it.