U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Blackbeard Island
National Wildlife Refuge

Picture collage of beach habitat, maritime forest and FWS staff studying a nesting loggerhead sea turtle.
Barrier island located off of the Georgia coast
Adminstered from Harris Neck NWR
Townsend, GA   31331
E-mail: savannahcoastal@fws.gov
Phone Number: (912) 832-4608
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Blackbeard Island NWR contains a variety of habitat types ideal for wildlife viewing, including maritime forest and miles of sandy beach which attracts threatened loggerhead a
Gray horizontal line
Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge

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 Balckbeard 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, American bald eagle, 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. Transportation to the island is not provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Arrangements for trips to the refuge can be made at Shellman's Bluff. To reach Shellman's Bluff, travel south from Savannah on U.S. 17 for approximately 51 miles to Shellman Bluff Road which terminates at Shellman Bluff on the Julienton River. A public boat ramp on Harris Neck NWR (Barbour River Landing) may also be used as a launching site for trips to the island.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code

Google Maps opens in a new window

NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

horizontal line

    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Wildlife Observation
Learn More >>

Management Activities
Blackbeard Island is a barrier island containing a variety of maritime habitats including beach, dunes, savannahs, and upland forest. Several freshwater impoundments were constructed to provide waterfowl habitat. Artesian wells that once provided a source of water for these ponds dried due to mainland industrial demands on the Floridan Aquifer, and water management is now strictly rainfall dependent. Prescribed burning is used to reduce wildfire danger in the summer and create a diversity of herbaceous vegetation.

The island has one of the highest number of sea turtle nests on the Georgia coast. An active management program is conducted each year to document, relocate(if necessary), and protect the nests. Nesting success and number of hatchlings are recorded.

Protection is provided for a wood stork rookery in Flag Pond, active only when there is adequate rainfall. When the pond holds sufficient water it also attracts other wading bird nesters such as egrets and white ibis. Seasonally, surveys are conducted to census waterfowl and shorebirds. Point counts for neotropical birds are held during the spring, while research on painted buntings is conducted in the summer. An active bald eagle nest is monitored and protected.

White-tailed deer are the most common resident mammals on the island. Archery hunting is used as a management tool to keep the deer herd size in balance with the habitat. Harvest data have been studied by University of Georgia biologists, resulting in published research on the island's white tailed deer subspecies.