Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge
arris Neck National Wildlife Refuge is one of the seven refuges administered as part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex. The refuge is located in McIntosh County, Georgia, 45 miles south of the port city of Savannah.
Harris Neck serves as an important link in the chain of refuges along the eastern seaboard, and is the inland base for two neighboring barrier island refuges, Blackbeard Island and Wolf Island.
Archaeological and historical records show that many different populations have benefited from Harris Neck’s resources over the centuries:
Guale Indians inhabited these areas, collecting fish, shellfish, and game, from 1500 – 1715 AD. Beginning in 1750, English and Scottish settlers farmed the land intensively, producing many crops including renowned, high-quality Sea Island cotton. African-American families established a farming and shell-fishing community following the Civil War. Their historic cemetery is still in use and can be visited from Barbour River Landing. In the early 20th century, tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard founded an estate that had a large mansion, formal gardens, and a dock for yachts. During World War II, the U.S. military purchased the land for an airfield and pilot training facility. Remnants of the runways can still be seen today.
Since its designation as a wildlife refuge in 1962, Harris Neck has served as a premier nesting, foraging, and wintering habitat for many species of wildlife. Signature species include wood storks, which nest in a large colony on Woody Pond, and the colorful and uncommon painted bunting, which favors nesting habitat in the refuge’s maritime scrub areas.
The refuge encompasses six man-made freshwater ponds, as well as extensive salt marsh, open fields, forested wetlands, and mixed hardwood/pine forest. This diversity of habitat makes the refuge an important resource for migratory birds (342 species of birds have been seen on the refuge and 83 species breed here).