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Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge

Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge
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General Information

Description - Blackbeard Island NWR is one of the oldest refuges in the country, having been in continuous federal ownership since 1800 when the island was acquired by the Navy Department at public auction for the sum of $15,000. The refuge comprises an area of 5,618 acres and is situated approximately 18 miles off the coast of McIntosh County, Georgia.

Blackbeard Island was named for Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard the Pirate. Rumors of Blackbeard's buried treasure still flourish, but no evidence of his fortune has ever been discovered.

The island is comprised of interconnecting linear dunes thickly covered by oak/palmetto vegetation. There are approximately 1,163 acres of open freshwater or freshwater marsh, 2,000 acres of regularly flooded salt marsh, 2,115 acres of noncommercial forest, and 340 acres of sand beach.

Recreation - Recreation opportunities include hiking, salt and freshwater fishing, beachcombing, sea kayaking, photography, bicycling, and wildlife observation

Organized activities at Blackbeard Island include archery hunts for deer; beach cleanups; shorebird censuses conducted by volunteers

Climate - Climate throughout much of Georgia is warm to hot and humid in summer with winters generally mild. One should be prepared for cold weather during winter months.

Location - Accessible only by boat. Located approximately 18 miles from Shellman's Bluff, Georgia. Several marinas on the mainland (Shellman's Bluff area) provide charter service to the barrier island for a fee. Private boats may be launched from the Barbour River Landing at Harris Neck NWR on the mainland. A listing of marinas offering transportation can be provided by the Savannah Coastal Refuges office.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Hello, The purpose of this report is to tell my tale of a recent paddle to Blackbeard Island from the boat ramp at Harris Neck Wildlife Park. This trip encompass both river and open bay (sound) paddling. Our plans were to paddle to the backside of the island where we were told a dock was located and would be a good place to have lunch and explore the island. The trip took 3 hours of fairly steady paddling. The trip was windy and, as always when crossing a sound, the waves can become rather large. On the day of our trip we had 15-25 mph winds. Our trip there was rather uneventful. The paddlers in our group (4) ranged from beginning to experienced. Once on the island we attempted to find the crematoria, after a rather long walk along the fire road we found the site located near the beach on the front side of the island. Took a couple of pictures and started back to the dock. This trip needs to be planned with the tides. And soon the tide would change. It also was in our float plan to return to Harris Neck by 6:00pm thus before nightfall. Along the way back we spotted (just in time) a very large water moccasin basking in a sunny spot. A reminder for anyone walking to keep looking down for snakes and other critters. We consider ourselves very lucky not to have stepped on this snake. We enjoyed the quietness of the island and peaceful feeling. Not to mention thinking what is was like when Mr. Blackbeard was on the island. And the other people in our history that have walked these paths. Well, we were able to avoid any further encounters with the local wildlife and arrived at our kayaks at the perfect time to catch the out going tide. As we headed out the river back to the sound the wind seem to pick up and the sound was rather ruff. We tuck our heads and started the difficult paddle back to our destination. HOWEVER, we missed our turn into Barbers (sp?) river and ended up almost getting to Shellmans bluff. This created a problem as the sun was starting to set and only one of us had the sense to bring a light, (another reminder to all of us paddlers to plan for the unknown...) Well after several attempts we did locate the river. The time was now 6:10pm and the sun was down. We figured it would take about an hour to reach our take out point. Well do to darkness and poor planning on our part we again miss the turn to Harris Neck. And to make matters worse one person in our group had not been drinking his water and was become dehydrated and sick to his stomach. (DRINK YOUR WATER). The time was now 7:20pm and getting darker by the minute. We could see the light of Harris Neck but due to the darkness we were unable to find the correct waterway to the takeout spot. After what seemed like 15 or more attempts at different approach's frustration and worry started to set in. Our float plan had called for us to be back and in contact with folks before 8pm and we were at the deadline and the cell phone would not pick up a signal...Again poor planning...The night was getting colder and things were not going well. In an attempt to get a better view I (the most experience) attempted to land on a hammock and stand in my boat to see above the marsh grass. One would think one would not do something so stupid, but with real concern setting in on the group judgement seem to be losing. Well you guess it, I fell in the cold water, I was able to quickly get back in my boat but the group became concerned for my health and the situation seemed to be turning for the worst. After many more attempts to locate the pathway in, we were able to find it...The time was now 9:00pm and we had been paddling steady for 6 1/2 hours. Not what we had planned for. The moral of this story is two folded, one being safety, Please always have flashlights on board even if your plans call for you to be home before dark. Have a phone or radio that works. And pay attention to landmarks as you paddle. Oh yea, Blackbeard I would go back in a minute but I would land my craft on the front of the island by the beach. It was a very interesting experience.

More Information

Contact Information:
Blackbeard Island NWR, 1000 Business Center Drive, Suite 10 , Savannah, GA, 31405, Phone: 912-652-4415
, r4rw_ga.scr@fws.gov

Additional Information:
Coastal Region - The coastal area of Georgia includes the southeastern corner of the state reaching the Atlantic Ocean. Savannah is the major city of the region and is accessible by Interstate 16 from Atlanta.
Georgia's National Wildlife Refuges - There are nine Wildlife Refuges in Georgia. Many of the refuges lie along the coast. Recreation opportunities include hiking, saltwater fishing, hunting, photography, bicycling, and wildlife observation.

Blackbeard Island NWR - Official agency website


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