Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, a notorious pirate feared by many for his murderous, plundering raids, supposedly came here to "bank" some of his ill-gained fortune. Despite myths about it's name, Blackbeard Island was acquired by the Navy Department at public auction in 1800 as a source of naval stores for shipbuilding. It is one of the oldest properties in continuous Federal ownership in the country. Preserved as a part of the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1924, this maritime forest, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, and beach habitat became Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1940. Interconnected sand dunes, covered thickly with oak and palmetto, separate the numerous ponds and savannas that fill with seasonal rain and provide homes for waterfowl and wading birds on much of the northern portion of the refuge.
Of the land designated as Wilderness on the southern half of the refuge, about 80% is salt marsh, with small portions including slash pines mixed with live oaks and white sandy beach . In the thick humidity of summer, the lush beards of Spanish moss hang from the trees, and green manes of resurrection fern grow on the live oaks. Shorebirds, gulls, and terns utilize the refuge year-round, with spring and fall bringing warblers and sandpipers. Many migrant birds winter on Blackbeard, including hermit thrushes, ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, black-bellied plovers, sanderlings, and the endangered piping plover.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Blackbeard Island Wilderness.
Blackbeard Island is accessible only by boat. Transportation to the island is not provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Arrangements for trips to the refuge can be made through local boat captains and marinas. Please contact the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex headquarters at 843-784-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. A public boat ramp on Harris Neck NWR (Barbour River Landing) may also be used as a launching site for trips to the island. From the Barbour River ramp, Blackbeard Island NWR is 18 nautical miles.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Blackbeard Island NWR offers a variety of recreational opportunities year-round. Wildlife observation, especially birdwatching, is excellent throughout the year. In winter months, waterfowl use the marshland and freshwater pools, while songbirds abound in the wooded areas in spring and fall. The existing trails and roads provide hikers with scenic paths ideal for nature study. Saltwater creeks which pass through refuge marshlands are open to fishing the entire year. Presently, two archery hunts for deer and hogs are scheduled on the island in fall.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
In summer months, the heat and humidity are oppressive and bugs are more numerous than any location in the world (it seems!). Please plan accordingly by bringing plenty of water and bug spray. Overgrown grass trails and savannas may conceal snakes, poison ivy, and stinging insects. An occassional alligator may be encountered. Do not molest this reptile in any way.
Safety and Current Conditions
Boaters must use caution when navigating to Blackbeard Island from the mainland, and should ideally be experienced with the area.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.