About the Refuge


Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) serves as an important link in the chain of barrier islands that lie along the Atlantic Flyway, providing excellent habitat for a variety of migratory birds.


Blackbeard Island was acquired by the Navy Department at public auction in 1800 as a source of live oak timber for ship building. A Presidential Proclamation in 1940 changed its designation from Blackbeard Island Reservation to Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the refuge's 5,618 acres include maritime forest, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, and beach habitat. In 1975, three thousand acres of the refuge were designated as National Wilderness.

Blackbeard Island NWR is one of the seven refuges administered as part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. This barrier island refuge is located off the coast of McIntosh County, Georgia, about 50 miles south of the port city of Savannah. Blackbeard Island is accessible only by boat, and transportation to the refuge is not provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Visitors may use their own boats to reach the refuge or arrangements can be made through local boat captains and charter services. A public boat ramp on Harris Neck NWR (Barbour River Landing) may be used as a launching site for trips to the island.

The refuge offers visitors a variety of wildlife-dependent recreational activities year-round. Wildlife observation, especially birdwatching, is excellent throughout the year. In winter months, concentrations of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds utilize the marshlands and beaches, while songbirds abound in the wooded areas in the spring and fall. The existing trails and roads provide hikers with scenic paths ideal for nature study. Saltwater creeks that pass through the refuge marshes are open to fishing the entire year. Presently, two archery hunts for deer are scheduled on the island in the fall and winter (click here for hunting information).

Please remember that pets of any kind are NOT permitted anywhere on the refuge. This includes dogs that are leashed. This rule is strictly enforced to ensure protection of refuge wildlife and habitat, which is the primary mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service.