Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region

Welcome to Blackbeard Island NWR

Blackbeard Island was acquired by the Navy Department at public auction in 1800 as a source of live oak timber for ship building. In 1924 the island was placed under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Biological Survey to be maintained as a preserve and breeding ground for native wildlife and migratory birds. A presidential proclamation in 1940 changed its designation from Blackbeard Island Reservation to Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge. In 1975, three thousand acres of the refuge were set aside as National Wilderness. Blackbeard Island was named for Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard the Pirate. Rumors of Blackbeard's buried treasure still flourish, but no evidence of his fortune has ever been discovered.

The island is comprised of interconnecting linear dunes thickly covered by oak/palmetto vegetation. There are approximately 1,163 acres of open freshwater or freshwater marsh, 2,000 acres of regularly flooded salt marsh, 2,115 acres of maritime forest, and 340 acres of sandy beach.

The primary objectives of the refuge are to provide wintering habitat and protection for migratory birds; provide protection and habitat to promote resident and migratory wildlife diversity; and to provide protection and management for endangered and threatened species (loggerhead sea turtle, wood stork, piping plover). Notable concentrations of waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, deer, and alligators can be seen at various times of the year.


Getting There . . .

Blackbeard island is accessible only by boat, and transportation to the island is not provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Visitors are welcome to bring their own private watercraft, or arrangements for trips to the refuge can be made through local boat captains and marinas, as well as authorized tour guides. A public boat ramp on Harris Neck NWR (Barbour River Landing) may be used as a launching site for trips to the island. Please click here for information on local charter services and tour guides.


Aerial view of Blackbeard Island NWR. Credit: USFWS

Aerial view of Blackbeard Island. Credit: USFWS

American Oystercatcher. Credit:  Kirk Rogers

American Oystercatcher. Credit: Kirk Rogers

Last updated: May 14, 2015