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National Estuarine Research Reserve 2017-04-07T16:15:26+00:00

Project Description

National Estuarine Research Reserve

Estuaries are, in the simplest terms, areas where fresh water from inland rivers and streams meets salt water from the ocean. These areas are extremely important, as they are some of the most biologically productive systems in the world. Estuaries can also be found in fresh water areas where two chemically disctinct bodies of water meet in a semi-enclosed bay or sound.

The Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve occupies just over ⅓ of Sapelo and is comprised of 2,100 upland acres and 4,000 acres of tidal salt marsh.

Georgia possesses over 368,000 acres of salt marsh. The salt marsh is a critical habitat and developmental nursery for numerous ecologically, commercially and recreationally valuable species as well numerous birds, mammals and reptiles.

Nearly 90% of the marsh in coastal Georgia is covered by one species of plant – smooth cordgrass, known scientifically as Spartina alterniflora. To survive in estuarine areas, marsh plants are uniquely designed to tolerate the salt water that floods the marshes twice daily at high tide. Likewise, aquatic animals that frequent the marshes are accustomed to fluctuating salinity and oxygen levels, temperature, and food availability.

  • 6,110 Acres
  • Visitor Center (in Meridian)
  • Guided Tours
  • Marsh and Beach Walks
  • Reynolds Mansion
  • Pioneer Group Camping

This reserve occupies over one-third of Sapelo Island, the fourth largest Georgia barrier island and one of the most pristine. The reserve comprises 2,110 acres of upland maritime forest and hammock land and 4,000 acres of tidal salt marsh. The upland maritime forest is composed of a mix of native hardwoods. About 90 percent of the reserve’s marshland is covered by smooth cordgrass.

The Sapelo Island Reserve is one of 29 areas in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. This reserve is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and is protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.