The Charleston and Savannah area isn’t just about old homes and Civil War memories. It’s also framed by the largest contiguous salt marsh in the world, not only a kayaker’s paradise but an amazing natural habitat for birds, both indigenous and migratory. Here’s a weeklong trip hitting the green highlights.
Begin at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge north of Charleston. Bull Island and Capers Island are highlights of this largely maritime preserve, which comprises 66,000 acres of kayaking opportunities. If you’re in town October–March, bird-watchers can visit the 22-acre Crab Bank Heritage Preserve in Charleston Harbor. Tonight relax over a world-class dinner in Charleston’s Historic District.
Today’s a full day for kayaking in the ACE Basin, comprising the estuaries of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers (the latter being the largest and most traveled). Public landings and guided tours abound for trips on these nearly pristine blackwater runs. Serious bird-watchers can visit the Bear Island and Donnelly Wildlife Management Areas within the ACE Basin, as well as at the impounded old rice paddies at the Ernest Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.
Now you head down to Tybee Island outside Savannah for either a day trip across the Back River to the undeveloped Little Tybee Island, where wilderness camping is allowed, or a kayak run at the Skidaway Narrows, where bird-watchers will enjoy seeing the osprey nests on the channel markers near Skidaway Island State Park, another great bird-watching spot. Either way, treat yourself tonight to a great dinner in Savannah’s Historic District.
Another day in the Savannah area, this time west of town on the undeveloped blackwater Ebenezer Creek. Bird-watching opportunities abound amid the cypress swamps, crisscrossed by old rice paddy dikes. Later today visit the nearby Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, with parts in both South Carolina and Georgia and an excellent bird-(and gator!)watching area.
Bird-watchers mustn’t miss a trip to Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, world-renowned for its colonies of wood stork and other waterfowl. Make sure to have a meal at nearby Shellman Bluff, a picturesque little shrimping village with a couple of excellent, authentic down-home seafood restaurants.
This morning make a run down the hybrid blackwater Altamaha River, Georgia’s largest. Amid the remnants of what were once some of America’s largest rice and cotton plantations you’ll see a stunning display of waterfowl and migratory birds. Tonight have a nice dinner on relaxing St. Simons Island, or make it onto Jekyll Island in time to see the birds on the northside beaches.
This is a full day at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, a vast natural wonderland that belies the name “swamp.” On its broad “prairies” bird-watchers will see a nearly unmatched variety of species for this region, and kayakers can paddle down several blackwater runs amid the cypress.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition