Hymns of the Marshes


 Driftwood / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

Driftwood / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

There are 15 Barrier Islands along the coast of Georgia from Savannah to St. Mary’s. These islands are for the most part untouched. Although I think the developed islands are beautiful and wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting — the barrier islands with the least human habitation are remarkable. I have never experienced the kind of peace that exists on these islands anywhere else. When you are walking the beaches your curiosity is continually heightened by what lays a little further ahead. My sister and I have walked and photographed these beaches until our feet were tender – afraid that we might miss something more magical than what we had already seen. The barrier islands possess mystery and romance – I always find myself wondering what is happening on the beaches and in the marshes and forests when I'm not there. To say the least, I am charmed. I feel so privleged that I have had the opportunity to visit a few of them.

Traveling to these islands is not really easy and access is limited. Most require finding an experienced local or charter to reach them, and it’s a bit of a challenge – but it’s well worth it. Lucky for me, I have a self-described “river rat” for a brother-in-law who has been navigating the rivers and coastlines of the area since he was a young man. I have visited Wassau, Jekyl, Little Tybee, Ossabaw, St. Catherine’s and Blackbeard – the latter being the most recent.

Ossabaw Island in particular hosts a number of events that encourage guests to get to know the island and to participate in the conservation activities. You can find more information on events at Ossabaw on their website. I hope to participate in the future because it's great to get to know more about the ecosystems and understand why it is so important to protect and preserve the wildlife, their habitats and land. I find that the more that I visit each island the more I begin to understand the role of the barrier islands as "inland guardians" and how important they are to health of our coastal waters.

Cumberland Island is another place which I hope to visit soon. Cumberland has campsites managed by the National Park Service as well as the Greyfield Inn if it is luxury you are seeking. Greyfield is a former Carnegie home still being managed by members of the Carnegie family.

Which brings me to the history of the barrier islands – it is captivating. Ranging from the early Native American settlements and the dark history of slavery to the legends of pirates and  “American royalty” – the barriers have layered, complex narratives that are as alluring as the wildlife, dense maritime forests, and pristine beauty that exists on the islands. I encourage anyone considering a visit to research the histories of the barrier islands before heading out on your adventure.

Keep Scrolling to see more of the photographs that I took while exploring and be sure to check out the links below for more information on the barrier islands.

  Forest / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

Forest / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

 Barnacles /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan

Barnacles /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan

  Joy Anne / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

Joy Anne / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

 Fishing by Kayak / St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

Fishing by Kayak / St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

 Salty Smiling Montauk /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

Salty Smiling Montauk /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

 Sandbar /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

Sandbar /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan 

  Cedars / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

Cedars / Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge 2014 © Manda Faye Dunigan

 Horseshoe Crabs /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan

Horseshoe Crabs /  St. Catherine's Island, Georgia 2014 ©Manda Faye Dunigan