Georgia's Wildlife Management Islands consists of Sapelo Island, Wolf Island Wilderness Area, and Ossabaw Island. These beautiful barrier islands offer a refuge for wildlife that are protected by Georgia's WMA.
Georgia's Enchanting Barrier Islands - Barrier islands are not merely pieces of the mainland surrounded by water. These landmasses are continually changing as the powerful forces of winds, ocean currents, waves, storms and tides reshape them. Tides have the greatest impact on the evolution of the barrier islands. The eastern coastline of Georgia is the western end of a massive ocean funnel. Thus tides here rise higher (6'-8') and faster than anywhere else on the seaboard. Landscape features like this make the entire east coast a perfect route for travel.
Tours are offered in some of the areas, but off limits in other areas. Please call the proper associations listed below for more information.
Ossabaw Island - Accessible only by boat, this is Georgia's third-largest barrier island. Offers hiking, guided campling trips, scheduled group hunts and public beaches. Phone: 912-727-2112 or 912-262-3173 - Address: 22814 GA Hwy. 144, Ossabaw Island, GA
Sapelo Island - At nearly 18,000 acres, Sapelo is Georgia's fourth largest island at 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, and it retains many natural features. By state law, all of Georgia's barrier island beaches are state property and open to the public. The public is allowed to use Sapelo's beaches for hiking, picnicking, or shelling during daylight hours. Public access to the interior of the island is limited and advance tour arrangements are required.
Located 60 miles south of Savannah opposite McIntosh County's mainland, Sapelo has four active components: the University of Georgia's Marine Institute, the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, the R.J. Reynolds (Sapelo Island) Wildlife Refuge, and the Hog Hammock Community. The four entities divide the 17,950-acre island (10,900 acres of uplands and 5.5 miles of beach) into different uses.
Visitors to Sapelo Island can see virtually every facet of a barrier island's natural community, from the forested uplands, to the vast salt marsh, and complex beach and dunes systems. The mainland Visitor Center brings to life both the natural and cultural history of Sapelo, while guided island tours highlight the African-American community of Hog Hammock, University of Georgia Marine Institute, Reynolds Mansion and newly restored lighthouse. Built in 1820, the lighthouse was in service until 1905 when it was deactivated. Following its 1998 restoration, it once again became a working aid in navigation.
Sapelo Island Estuaries - Estuaries are those areas where fresh water from rivers and streams meets salt water from the ocean. These areas are extremely important, as they are some of the most biologically productive systems in the world. Estuaries serve several vital functions including providing food, nesting, and nursery ground habitat for aquatic animals as well as a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Furthermore, these salt marsh systems offer filter, buffer, and "sponge-like" capabilities unlike any other ecosystem on earth.
Guided Tours: Wednesday 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (mansion and island) and Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (lighthouse and island). From June through Labor Day, an additional tour is offered Friday 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (lighthouse and island). Extended tour offered the last Tuesday of the month, March-October, 8:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. (lighthouse, mansion and island). Reservations required.
Pioneer Campground: Groups of 15-25 people may camp near the beach on Sapelo's Cabretta Island. Comfort station with hot showers available. Reynolds Mansion: Groups of 16-29 people may stay at this home originally designed and constructed by Thomas Spalding in 1807. Meals and transportation included.
For more info, contact:Phone: 912-437-3224 (public tour reservations)
912-485-2300 (group tours) - 912-485-2299 (group camping and Reynolds Mansion) Sapelo Island Visitors Center Route 1, Box 1500, Darien, GA 31305
Wolf Island Wilderness Area - Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Egg Island and Little Egg Island, was established on April 3, 1930. The refuge consists of a long narrow strip of oceanfront beach backed by a broad band of salt marsh.
Over 75% of the refuge's 5,126 acres are composed of saltwater marshes. About 300 acres of Wolf Island is "upland" standing an average of 10 feet above the sea and including a long, narrow, four-mile-long strip of oceanfront beach. On the upland grow sea oats, sandspurs and other beach-dune perennials. The rest of the island is salt marsh dominated by cord grass.
Wolf Island NWR is located in McIntosh County, Georgia 12 miles east of the small town of Darien. This 5,126 acre migratory bird refuge is composed of Wolf Island (4,519 acres), Egg Island (593 acres), and Little Egg Island (14 acres).
Saltwater fishing and crabbing are popular activities. Though the refuge's salt waters are open to a variety of recreational activities, all beach, marsh, and upland areas are closed to the public. Visitors must make their own arrangements to reach the refuge. Marinas in the Darien, Georgia area may offer transportation to Wolf Island NWR.
Directions: From Savannah, GA, take US 17 south about 70 miles to Darien where marinas provide boat access to the refuge which lies approximately 12 miles east. A free map is available from the refuge manager.
Contact information - Phone: 912-652-4415 -
Savannah Coastal Refuges, 1000 Business Center Drive, Suite 10, Savannah, GA 31405
Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge is located in Chatham County, Georgia. Wassaw NWR is one of seven refuges within the Savannah Coastal Refuges complex. Wassaw NWR lies 14 miles southeast of Savannah, Georgia. Composed of a single barrier island (Wassaw) is migratory bird refuge consists of 10,070 acres.
The balance of uplands consists of two smaller interior islands (collectively known as Little Wassaw Island), several small hammocks and 20 acres of leased land on the mainland known as Priest Landing. The refuge is only accessible by boat.
Natural History - The 10,070-acre migratory bird refuge consists of a single barrier island (Wassaw Island), tidal salt marsh, two smaller islands (collectively known as Little Wassaw Island), several small hammocks.
The refuge, with approximately 25 miles of boundary or shoreline, is comprised of 76% salt marsh, 24% beach dune and upland forest communities, roads, trails and administrative land.
Seven miles of undeveloped beach provides nesting habitat for the threatened Loggerhead sea turtle. Numerous species of shorebirds visit this spectacular beach. The bald eagle nests annually on one of the outlying hammocks and the endangered wood stork can be found feeding in the tidal marshes and waters of the refuge.
The refuge attracts over 14,000 visitors each year. Public use opportunities on Wassaw Island includes: trails, bicycling, saltwater fishing, sea kayaking, wildlife observation, photography, and daytime beach use.