Impoundment System Rehabilitation Project


The impoundment system rehabilitation project began in September 2020 and requires the closure of all trails north and south of SC Hwy 170, including the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. Due to intense heavy equipment work and hazardous and changing conditions, all closed areas will be off-limits to all visitors (no foot, bicycle, or vehicle traffic).  Due to the extensive work being done, as well as conditions outside of our control such as hurricanes, the timeline for the project remains fluid.  Our best estimate of reopening the wildlife drive and other trails is winter/spring of 2023.  We ask that visitors be patient and remember that what we are doing is for the benefit of the wildlife and habitat we are mandated to protect. We consider you our partners in this important mission and greatly appreciate your continued patience and support.  

We will provide updates as new information becomes available and keep you informed of the progress throughout the duration of project. Keep in mind there are many other areas on the refuge to enjoy such as Kingfisher Pond and adjacent trails, the Solomon Tract, and the Visitor Center trails. In addition, Pinckney Island and Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuges will be open for normal visitation. 

Click here for a trail closure map

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Refuge Manager Kimberly Hayes at 912-313-1364 or

So why are we rehabbing the infrastructure of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge?

After Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage to the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive (which is a large, perimeter levee) and other infrastructure, the Refuge received specific funds to rehabilitate, repair and restore all water management capabilities for the Refuge to be able to meet its Congressional mandate. Specific improvements include elevating all dikes/levees surrounding the impoundments, deepening the perimeter and interior ditches within the impoundments, and replacing water control structures.

The freshwater impoundments are the primary means of the Savannah NWR meeting its mandate to provide high-quality wetland habitat for migrating birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Over the past several decades, the levees have subsided with many areas of the perimeter levees well below the original 12' elevation above mean sea level (MSL). Sea level rise, increasing frequency of high tides above 9', deepening of the Savannah Harbor with associated increases in salinity, and potential increase in hurricane activity necessitate the recovery of the entire network of levees to function as mandated. These projects are necessary to harden efforts to withstand future storms.

The importance of the Savannah NWR in the lower Savannah River estuary, albeit the entire coastal area, grows annually with the continued development of the Savannah Harbor and surrounding uplands. The refuge provides virtually the only publicly-owned conservation area in the lower Savannah River estuary whose primary objectives center on waterfowl and other wetland-dependent migratory birds. Development in the Savannah River estuary has reduced tidal freshwater wetlands by two-thirds, elevating the importance of Savannah NWR’s managed freshwater wetlands within the impoundment system and to adjacent landowners. This current project would finish a complete rehabilitation of the system by improving water control within the impoundments, improving habitat, and improving wildlife viewing for visitors.