Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina was named after the Pinckney family, who established a successful cotton plantation here. The land later became a nature preserve in 1975 after the family donated it to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which dedicated the island to conservation.
The refuge itself spans 4,053 acres and is made up of a diverse range of different habitats, such as freshwater ponds, fallow field, forestland, salt marsh, and bushland, which are home to over 250 different species of bird throughout the year. Several types of these shorebirds can be spotted wading in the salt marsh near the entrance.
The refuge does not have any form of facilities or a visitor centre, but it does provide many opportunities for observing wildlife and there are well over 14 miles of bicycling and hiking trails for you to explore. There are often guided walking tours of the island by trained local groups, who offer environmental education as well a history of the refuge. Another popular activity on the island is wildlife and landscape photography and hundreds of budding photographers visit every year to do just that; you can even enter the photographs you take in a free yearly competition. There are 3 levels to enter at, namely professional, amateur, and beginner and there are prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, so get snapping.
Some of the animals you may encounter during your hike include the white ibis, a freshwater bird you will most likely spot wading around the salt marsh. The salt marsh itself makes up 67% of the island. The white ibis’ distinctive features include their white feathers and a long, curved beak.
A rare, but not completely out of the ordinary, sight on the islands are bobcats, a large nocturnal cat that is one of the many predators at the refuge. The bobcat has very big paws and can bounce up to 10 feet; they are well known for catching prey much larger than they are.
Another popular sight are the painted bunting birds and, due to their brightly colored feathers, they are very hard to miss. Sadly, the population of these beautiful songbirds is on the decline due to them being illegally captured and traded as well as the loss of their habitat during land development. However, the refuge provides some hope for the species, as it offers a protected environment for the birds to breed in.
Visitors are advised to be aware while exploring the refuge as it is not just the flies, gnats, and mosquitos that will want to bite you. There are also snakes that may be hiding amongst the undergrowth, not to mention the fact that you may even come face to face with an alligator, so be sure to keep your eyes open and keep your distance if you do see any.
The site opens every day at sunrise closes at sunset. No overnight stays are permitted.
694 Beech Hill Lane, Hardeeville, SC 29927, Phone: 843-784-2468