Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in Chatham and Effingham Counties, Georgia, and Jasper County in South Carolina, along the lower Savannah River between mile markers 18 and 41. The major port city of Savannah, an industrial center for pulp, paper and organic chemicals, lies immediately downstream of the refuge. Much of the land that is now the Savannah NWR was once rice plantations. The old rice levees, which date back to the mid-eighteenth century, form the basis for the dikes used to impound water today.
Savannah NWR has nearly 30,000 acres for the conservation of natural resources. The Georgia side of the refuge includes about half of the total acreage, and includes bottomland hardwoods, palustrine, estuarine, and riverine wetlands. All wetlands are subject to tidal fluctuations with amplitudes ranging from 6 to 9 feet. Scattered throughout the tidal fresh marsh are oak hammocks that range in size from .30 (ha) to 5 (ha). The West boundary contains upland pine/hardwood forest and early successional fields. Near mile marker 38, on the Savannah River, tides fluctuate mere inches. Also, this area contains Bear Island, which has one of the last stands of virgin timber remaining on the river. Bear Island joins a larger tract of bottomland hardwoods that encompasses about 3000 acres.
Savannah NWR's proximity to a major shipping port means that it is affected by harbor maintenance, ship traffic, and commercial and residential development. Approximately 164,000 hectares of tidal freshwater remain along the Atlantic Coast. Twenty-eight percent of this marsh is within SC and GA; one-fifth is along the lower Savannah River. The palustrine system along the entire East Coast serves as a water purifier, a nursery for numerous marine species, a buffer from coastal development, and a habitat for a diverse group of wildlife.
On the marshes of Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, birds of conservation priority, such as King Rail, Clapper Rail, Least Bittern and Prothonotary Warblers nest in high numbers. Black Rails are thought to nest here also, and efforts are being made to document their use of the Refuge. The tidal marshes of the Savannah NWR provide critical habitat in the life cycles of these birds and other animals and plants.
Sighting Source Key: 1=published reports,; 2=surveys (CBC; BBS; etc.); 3=personal observations; 4=other sources (specify)