Among the wonderful things about the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is that you can visit several times a year and almost always see something different, depending on the season. This time of year, ducks and other waterfowl abound.
The refuge lies on both the South Carolina and Georgia sides of the Savannah River, just upriver from the city of Savannah, Georgia. It includes 28,168 acres of bottomland hardwoods and tidal freshwater marsh, as well as an additional 3,000 acres of impoundments. Those impoundments — once rice fields that date to the mid or late 1700s, according to the refuge website — are managed for migratory wading birds and waterfowl. (Those management practices will be the subject of a Hilton Head Audubon Society program at 3 p.m. Jan. 9 at Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.)
You can drive over much of the original dike works along the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, which is off of S.C. 170 in the South Carolina side of the river. (The pinpoint in the map below is not the actual drive. It’s unmarked and off S.C. 170, which runs horizontally, through the middle.) It winds four miles of earthen dikes through the managed freshwater pools and hardwood hammocks — practically a drive-thru window of wildlife.
The accompanying photo gallery includes images from a trip Dec. 22 and shows several species of ducks now present, along with other waterfowl and wading birds. There are also a few shots of non-bird species — it’s hard to compile a photo set of Lowcountry nature without a shot of an alligator, after all. There’s also a butterfly worth a closer look.