Hunting Island State Park

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Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island
Hunting Island 2.jpg
Marshes surrounding Hunting Island
Type state park
Location Beaufort County, South Carolina
(Lowcountry & Sea Islands)
Nearest city Beaufort
Coordinates 32°21′59″N 80°26′40″W / 32.36639°N 80.44444°W / 32.36639; -80.44444Coordinates: 32°21′59″N 80°26′40″W / 32.36639°N 80.44444°W / 32.36639; -80.44444
Area 5,000 acres (20.2 km2)
Elevation sea level
Created 1935[1]
Etymology "Hunting Islands" map reference (ca. 18th century)
Operated by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
Visitors 1.2 million
Camp sites Both regular and RV campsites[2]
Hiking trails
  • island hike/bike trail (8.0 mi)
  • campground trail (1.0 mi)
  • marsh boardwalk (0.4 mi)
Other information Admission fees:
$5.00 for adults
$3.25 for S.C. seniors
$3.00 for children ages 6-15
free for children ages 0-5
Website Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island is a 5,000-acre (20 km2) secluded semitropical barrier island located 15 miles (24 km) east of Beaufort, South Carolina, USA. Since 1935, it has been classified as a state park. It is the most-visited state park facility in South Carolina and is a part of the ACE Basin estuarine reserve area. Renowned for its natural beauty, the island remains one of the few remaining undeveloped Sea Islands in the Lowcountry. The park is known for its 19th century lighthouse which bears its name. The park's unique beach has been featured in several travel publications and was listed in 2013 as a Top 25 beach in the United States by TripAdvisor.[3]

History[edit]

Hunting Island retains its colonial designation of the "Hunting Islands", which served as hunting preserves for Lowcountry planters and elite in the 19th and early 20th century. As the name implies, the island was once used for hunting deer, raccoon, waterfowl and other small game. The first signs of human activity came in the 1850s when the first Hunting Island light was constructed. The original light was destroyed by Confederate forces in the early days of the Civil War. Ten years after the Civil War ended the lighthouse was rebuilt, and later relocated to its current position.

The 1893 Sea Islands hurricane swept Hunting Island and other nearby Sea Islands clean, but the lighthouse survived.

In the 1930s, the island was developed into a state park by the Civilian Conservation Corps as bridges were constructed to connect the outer Sea Islands with Beaufort. Despite the limited human development, the island remains a preserve for its abundant wildlife. Visitors enjoy more than 4 miles (6.4 km) of beach, a dense maritime forest in the interior areas, and an extensive saltwater marsh on the western side. The most notable attraction is the 19th-century lighthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While not operational, the lighthouse tower currently features a rotating light in the tower that is turned on at night.

A campsite at Hunting Island

The southern terminus of U.S. Route 21 has been on Hunting Island since 1953. The Terminus was at the south end of the island until about 1980, when erosion destroyed a portion of the highway, forcing the state to create a new entrance to the park and a set of one-lane roads through the palmetto forest. Since that time, US 21 terminates at the point where it formerly turned east toward the lighthouse.

Since 1980, Hunting Island has suffered major beach erosion as a result of heavy tides from the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and Saint Helena Sound, and is expected to shrink in size by ten per cent over the next forty years. At times there is ride-able surf on the island, which is best three hours before high tide due to the large continental shelf effect on incoming waves.

In 1993, most of the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump were filmed on Hunting Island and neighboring Fripp Island.

The Marsh Boardwalk at Hunting Island

Wildlife[edit]

The wildlife includes loggerhead turtles, deer, alligators, raccoons, diamondback rattlesnakes, and hundreds of species of birds. Of the birds, many are impressed by the abundance of herons and egrets. The interior lagoon (which was created by sand dredging in 1968) has become naturalized and home to such species as seahorses and barracuda.

Each year, dozens hope to watch Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings emerge from the sand and walk out to the ocean. Around 60 and 130 nests are laid annually on the beach. Between May and October, notices are put up to ban flashlights on the beach after dark to protect the turtles.

Facilities[edit]

Hunting Island provides locations for recreational vehicles and tent campers on the northern portion of the island. The majority of the park's cabins have been vacated in recent years due to high beach erosion and have since been condemned. A 2-mile-long (3.2 km) lagoon is adjacent to the cabins and serves as a popular location for fishing.

The Hunting Island Visitors Center is located in the middle of the island overlooking a small lagoon. The center provides visitors with general information on the island in addition to space for activities and office space for park staff. The center is also connected with Hunting Island's extensive trail system and is a short distance to several beach access points.

The Hunting Island Nature Center features live animals and exhibits about the habitats and natural history of the park. The center is located at the entrance to the Paradise Pier fishing pier, which juts into the Fripp Inlet between Hunting and Fripp Island.

The Hunting Island Lighthouse is open year-round to the public. Visitors are able to climb to the viewing deck of the 136-foot-tall (41 m) tower for a nominal fee.

Hunting Island's 4 miles (6.4 km) of beachfront provide a wonderful and natural beach experience for visitors. Although the beach is heavily eroded towards the southern end of the island, ample beachfront remains in the access points in the central section of the island and in the campground areas towards the north end of the island.

The state park also features several trails for hiking and biking, including a 6.1-mile (9.8 km) loop trail that cuts through the maritime forest and along the lagoon. The trail also connects to the Marsh Boardwalk, a popular pull-off point for photographers. A short 5-minute walk leads visitors across a section of marsh onto a hammock and towards a deck along a tidal creek.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]