Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region

Wildlife and Habitat Management

Savannah NWR contains approximately 6,000 acres of impounded freshwater wetlands, formerly plantation rice fields, which date back to the mid or late 1700's. Approximately 3,000 acres of these former fields are now managed by 22 water control structures, effectively serving as impoundments to provide feeding areas and sanctuary for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and other wildlife. The remaining 3,000 acres are in the East Marsh Unit, a tidally influenced aquatic impoundment dominated by woody and scrub/shrub wetland habitats.

The managed freshwater impoundments are the most important managed habitat within the refuge. They attract visitors to bird watch and are the primary means of meeting one of the refuge’s primary objectives (i.e. provide habitat and sanctuary for waterfowl). The managed freshwater impoundments provide wintering habitat for approximately 22 species of waterfowl.  Often referred to as "pools", these areas are managed for a diverse array of wildlife and fish throughout the year. The freshwater plant communities within the management units are extremely diverse and compositionally complex. This diversity makes impounded areas ideal habitat for a myriad of water birds. In addition, prescribed fire and mechanical and chemical treatments are used to manipulate plant succession stages and regulate undesirable and noxious plants. However, the primary means of management of these systems is dependable water level control, utilizing rice trunk and stop-log water control structures, and a twelve-mile diversion canal.

An aerial view of Savannah NWR's 3,000-acre impoundment system. Credit: USFWS

Aerial view of Savannah NWR's 3,000-acre impoundment system. Credit: USFWS

Wilson's snipe.  Credit:  Russ Wigh

Wilson's snipe. Credit: Russ Wigh

Refuge staff operating a rice field trunk. Credit:  Kirk Rogers

Refuge staff operating a rice field trunk. Credit: Kirk Rogers

Last Updated: November 24, 2009