Wassaw Island

Posted in Georgia's Barrier Islands

This seven-mile-long island is the most primitive and undeveloped of Georgia’s barrier islands. In 1866, a New England cotton merchant, George Parson, purchased the island for $2,500. Later, Parson’s descendants sold it to the Nature Conservancy with the understanding that no bridge would ever be built to it from the mainland. In 1969, the Nature Conservancy deeded Wassaw to the federal government as a National Wildlife Refuge. Since 1973, the Cabretta Research Project has conducted research on population levels and habits of loggerhead turtles at Wassaw. From mid-May through mid-September, volunteers observe and tag nesting female loggerheads and relocate threatened nests to protected hatchery sites.

2,500 of Wassaw’s 10,050 total acres are upland and the island has six miles of beautiful unspoiled beaches. One of Wassaw’s most interesting features is the “boneyard beach” on the northeast end of the island. Here hundreds of live oaks, pines and cabbage palm trees have fallen prey to erosion and now their “skeletons” line about a mile-long stretch of the beach. Erosion at the north end has also partially exposed the remains of an 1898 fort to the tides. Another interesting feature is the 50-foot-high dune line, which was created by the hurricane of 1890. Hundreds of gulls, herons, egrets, migratory songbirds and shorebirds use the beaches, marshes and freshwater ponds as breeding and nesting grounds.

Seasonal deer hunting is allowed by permit only and most of the island is open to the public during the daylight hours. The middle 180 acres of the island are still owned by the Wassaw Island Trust and are not open to the public.Access to the island is by private or commercial boat charter.

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The Coastal Resources Division of Georgia DNR is the state agency entrusted to manage Georgia’s marshes, beaches, Marine waters and marine fisheries for the benefit of present and future generations.

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