Saturday, April 18, 2015

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Geogia

           For those of you who think of the east coast of the United States as filled with golf courses and condos, as over-developed and over-crowded, well, think again.  Behold a different type of crowd while traveling the Georgia coastline—thousands of shore birds, countless marine organisms, numerous alligators, otters, deer and bobcats.  

          Georgia’s natural shoreline is home to productive fresh and saltwater marshes, barrier islands and wildlife refuges.   I recently visited Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, less than an hour's drive south of Savannah but centuries removed from the city’s traffic and tourists.

          A cool, gray, drizzly day silenced much of the bird life and kept us from more extensive exploration of this refuge.  The following photos taken at Woody Pond, the first stop along the four-mile wildlife drive, offer a sampling of this gem of a refuge's treasures.

I visited this refuge in March with my sister and my parents—aged in their
mid 80s.  I was about to walk this grassy path along Woody Pond when
I noticed these "logs" on the grass.  I took a few steps toward them and realized that
the logs were a family of alligators!  My parents had never seen alligators
in the wild and, to their credit, they didn't bolt for our vehicle but hung around
to watch this relaxing group of gators (about 25 yards away) through our binoculars.

Seconds after reading this sign an alligator hiding in the grass below plopped
into the water.  We heard the loud splash and saw the tail of
a large gator slip into the murky water.  This one was close!

This Great Blue Heron caught a nice catfish for lunch.
We watched the heron struggle to orient the fish for swallowing.
(You can see the mouth and eye facing the heron's beak.)
The heron tossed its head up and back, opened wide, and finished off
this fish with one big gulp.

After a salty fish dinner, it's time for a long drink.
We watched the heron as it flew back to the pond
and took several sips.
Two small gators (on the rock in front) also watch the
big bird quench its thirst.

         Visit coastal Georgia and view the east coast as it may have appeared when the first settlers arrived on its shores.  Learn more by visiting this website:


  1. Wow, Rita, I had no idea there was a wildlife refuge in Georgia, but when I think about it, why would I assume there wasn't? I visited both Charleston and Savannah with time to spare and could have visited. I know my husband and I would have loved it. Thanks for an interesting post that opened my eyes. You need to know that I have vowed to search your post for all our future destinations.

    1. Janet, there are several national wildlife refuges along coastal Georgia, some are entire islands accessible only by boat. Also, Ace Basin National Wildlife refuge is on the South Carolina coast between Savannah and Charleston. I wish you and Joel had known about them—and I wish I had had the time to visit more of them, too.

      And then there's the great Okefenokee Swamp in the southeast corner of Georgia and north Florida. This 620 square mile refuge has been called one of the great primitive areas of the world. I've never been there. Would love to go!

      I'm happy to hear that you'll use my posts as guides to touring this great country of ours. Thanks!

  2. Yikes! That is a gaggle of alligators!! I think I'd be more nervous than your parents at getting anywhere near baby alligators when their larger parents were around.

    What a fabulous trip to Georgia. I love Savannah, but how terrific to find the wild beauty of Harris Neck Refuge not too far away.

    That sign reminds me of a trip to Florida to watch a space shuttle launch. Afterward, we took the tour around the flight center, then made a nice picnic lunch on a pleasant grassy area. It was only after finishing lunch that we looked up and saw a similar sign and realized we were tempting fate and skedaddled out of there!

    1. I enjoyed Savannah too, but I was delighted to find all the natural areas along coastal Georgia.

      The gator family seemed to be resting comfortably while we stood and watched. They took a few lazy steps, but not in our direction!

      It sounds as though you may have been tempting fate with your picnic lunch in an alligator area. The more they associate us with food, the more likely they are to attack. Glad that you made it out of there without any unwelcome encounters!

  3. Hi Rita,

    Thank you for this blog posting which confirms and illustrates that there are indeed places on the east coast of the U.S. where one can experience the "natural world". You do need to seek them out, but they are there for certain.

    Several years ago (and I do mean several), Cheri and I camped at Jekyll Island, which is just a bit south of Harris Neck. At that time, Jekyll Island was also a place filled with natural beauty (and hopefully, it still is).

    I love the sign stating that "Feeding or harassing alligators is a violation of State/Federal law". I don't mean to diminish the importance or the significance of the signage, but can't help but wonder if it might elicit a few chuckles from one's fellow inmates when told that you were in the "big house" for harassing an alligator? :-)


    1. Jekyll Island is not as wild as the costal areas boasting wildlife refuges and marine research estuaries—it has golf courses and resorts—but I believe it still has its wild marshes and many species of birds and other wildlife. As you said, you have to know where to look, but you can indeed find evidence of the natural world (and beautiful areas) along the east coast!

      I don't know, John, I would have to believe that if you were jailed for "harassing alligators", then the other inmates would want nothing to do with you!

      Thanks for your comments!

  4. Thank you for the pictures of the denizens of the swamps!

    Every natural precinct goes on to develop its own life world, and I hope we are enlightened enough to let the natural world be ..

    1. You're welcome!

      I know that our growing population and diminishing resources are putting pressure on the natural world but I, also, hope that we're enlightened enough to protect these special places for their own sake, and for the sake of future generations of humans.

      Thanks for reading!