Turtle Island is South Carolina's southern-most barrier island. It is situated south of Daufuskie Island and just north of the Savannah River in Jasper County. It features 2.5 miles (4.0 Km) of beach but only 120 acres of uplands. The majority of Turtle Island is tidal saltmarsh dominatied by smooth cordgrass (Spartina alternaflora). The upland area is composed primarily of narrow dune ridges with some small brackish ponds scattered between the dune ridges. The beach is an important foraging and resting area for migratory shorebirds as well as a known nesting area for beach-nesting shorebirds.

Ornithological Summary

Turtle Island is one of the last remaining undisturbed barrier island beaches in South Carolina. An important area for migrating shorebirds, it is a known wintering area for Piping Plover, an endangered species and a known breeding area for Wilson's Plover and American Oystercatcher (WatchListed) and Least Tern, also endangered. Turtle Island also qualifies as an IBA for "species assemblage associated with a respresentative, rare or threatened habitat type": Wilson's Plover and Red Knot. A fourth criteria which TI met is concentration of at least 1000 shorebirds: Sanderling, Dunlin, Dowitcher sp., Willet, Black-bellied Plover, Black Skimmer, and Least Tern.

Conservation Issues

Continuing coastal erosion is a threat to the birds that use the beach. Water pollution from past oil spills and present water pollution from boats and point and non-point source pollution from nearby Hilton Head Island are a continuing threat.
A proposed Jasper County Port at the foot of the Savannah River is a potential threat.


Turtle Island is owned by the state of South Carolina and managed by the Department of Natural Resources as part of its Heritage Trust Program.
On December 1, 1975, Union Camp Corporation donated Turtle Island to the Nature Conservancy, who immediately transferred the ownership to the state of SC.


Turtle Island is a low barrier island primarily valued for its undisturbe beach. The upper beach/dune area is dominated by sea oats (Uniola paniculata), marsh hay (Spartina patens) and seaside panicum (Panicum amarum). The tidal marsh is dominated by Spartina alterniflora. The uplands are dominated by slash pine (Pinus elliotti), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), caabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto), southern red cedar (Juniperrus silicicola) and wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).
Turtle Island is an important nesting beach for the Loggerhead Turtle, an endangered species.

Land Use

Turtle Island is primarily a wildlife conservation area. Limited waterfowl hunting is allowed.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.