Located 14 miles southeast of Savannah on the Atlantic Ocean, Wassaw NWR is 76 percent tidal salt marsh and estuary, and 24 percent upland (beach and dunes, maritime shrub, pine forest, live oak-maritime forest, and tidal flats). The main island vegetation is climax forest on dune and swale topography. The upland areas consist of Wassaw (a barrier island), Little Wassaw, Pine Island and Flora Hammock.

Ornithological Summary

Wassaw NWR, a 10,053 acre migratory bird refuge, supports rookeries for herons and egrets. Wading birds are abundant in summer months. Refuge staff conduct various wintering waterfowl surveys and shorebird surveys throughout the year, including point counts, and assist with long-term research on migratory birds, particularly the Painted Bunting. The Bald Eagle nests annually on one of the outlying hammocks and the endangered Wood Stork can be found feeding in the tidal marshes and waters of the refuge. Numerous shorebirds share the spectacular beaches with nesting loggerhead turtles.

These species are found in Wassaw NWR: (source: USFWS) Bald Eagle - threatened; Piping Plover - endangered; Wood Stork - endangered, Peregrine Falcon; Painted Bunting.

Sighting Source Key: 1=published reports,; 2=surveys (CBC; BBS; etc.); 3=personal observations; 4=other sources (specify)

Conservation Issues

Natural events - Hurricanes, Storms, sea level rise, fire; Pollution; Invasive species - non-native plants


The majority (98%) of Wassaw NWR is deeded to the U.S. Department of the Interior to be managed as Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge.
A small 180 acre parcel (2%) is privately owned by the Parsons Family.


76% tidal salt marsh; 24% beach/dune/upland forest and upland forest communities; 25 miles of shoreline, 7 miles of which are undeveloped

open to Atlantic Ocean, tidal creeks, the Wilmington River, the Vernon River, Wassaw Sound

Land Use

Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It protects a 10,053 acre migratory bird refuge. There are annual, managed deer hunts and fishing, and general tourism and recreational activities which include boating, birdwatching, hiking and camping. The refuge is open year round, but is accessible only by boat. There are research projects that include Loggerhead sea turtles and the Caretta research project.

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