Savannah National Wildlife Refuge sits on the Savannah River in the lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. I went there in early spring to walk along the dikes that enclosing pools built back when they grew rice during the plantation era. On my walk I spotted plenty of wildlife from alligators to waterfowl. I started along the Little Black River before heading over the dikes. One can also take a drive along the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. Or walk part of it, like I did. I passed several cars stopped as people inside took in the alligators in the ponds. Bikes are also welcome.
The Refuge is made up of nearly 30,000 acres. Along with the former rice fields, now places for migratory birds to spend awhile, there are bottomlands of cypress, gum, and maple trees and freshwater marshes, tidal rivers, and creeks. One can also find remnants from the plantation era, water control structures and the original narrow dikes. A trail takes one along the Little Black River.
Before hiking or take the Wildlife drive, visit the new visitor center, open March 2010. It’s located on US17. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s closed Sundays and Federal holidays. It’s a great introduction to the refuge. You can learn about the wildlife you’ll be seeing and the history of the refuge. I wish I’d gone there first when I went to find out more about the birds.
The best time for birding is best from October to April while March through April is when alligators are most frequently seen. On my walk along the dikes I saw some sunning themselves and swimming in the ponds. Watch out for them and make sure not to go too close to the water. Scores of birds flew overhead, some walking along the dike and others resting in trees.
The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is off SC170/Alligator Alley. Drive past freshwater pools and by hardwood hammocks.
Location: The refuge is located in Jasper County along the Savannah River. In Hardeville, take I95, take US17 south to Savannah. The Wildlife Preserve will be on the right. The visitor center is located on US17, seven miles south of Hardeville, SC.
What’s Close by:
Pinckney Island N.W.R.
Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve
Sergeant Jasper Park