Did you know that there is a place in the Lowcountry you can visit where the trees talk to you?
No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I have simply visited the Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island.
In this small wooded tract, the soft ocean breeze whispers among tall pines and soft wax myrtles, and songbirds decorate the air with their myriad calls and cadences. The voice of the Lowcountry can be heard — and felt — while on a relatively short walk. The language it speaks will set itself upon your heart.
The Audubon Newhall Preserve was established in 1965 in an effort to preserve an authentic sea island ecosystem. The creation came right at the cusp of historic development as growth in the number of residences and visitors to Hilton Head was beginning to skyrocket. Charles Fraser, the developer of Sea Pines, was approached by Caroline Newhall with a request to preserve 50 acres of woodland on the south end of Hilton Head Island as a nature preserve.
Known as “Beany” Newhall, she was an early environmental pioneer in the preservation of the precious, delicate coastal ecosystem of the area. Her effort — and that of many others — resulted in the Audubon Newhall Preserve located on Palmetto Bay Road. Now, under constant care by the Audubon Society founded in 1974, the preserve offers walking trails and educational information as well as a window into the wild that surrounds the cheerful noise of vacationers and the daily hum of residential life on the island.
When you visit the preserve, you will be immediately struck by how accessible the natural world can be. Well marked, winding trails make their way among tall pines and rustling palmetto. As your feet fall on a soft floor of pine needles and last year’s leaves, the sunlight angles among branches to light your way. This is not a dark forest but an airy pinewood with unique Lowcountry features such as the swamp pocosin and a sunny, dragonfly-frequented pond. You can sometimes spot an alligator sunning itself on a bank while above you songbirds serenade.
The preserve is an excellent place for birding since the island is ground zero for numerous migratory and year-round birds. If you are a fitness nut or just want a nice walk, the two-mile trail system is very easy, and gentle loops bring you back to the central pond or the point where you started.
If you are seeking a break from the hustle of daily life or looking to catch a glimpse of wildlife, then you will love nature’s offerings at Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.flickr.com and search on the username “greenkayak73.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island is located on the south end of Hilton Head Island off Palmetto Bay Road.
Take U.S. 278 to the Sea Pines traffic circle and take a left onto Palmetto Bay Road. For a quicker route, you can take a right on the Cross Island Parkway but be prepared to pay a toll for passage.
The entrance to Audubon Newhall Preserve is on the left (right from the Cross Island).
There is parking for several cars and, though there are no facilities, there is an interpretive kiosk and maps are available. Many plants and trees along the paths are marked with their scientific and common names to assist in identification and educate visitors on the various species that can be found there.
The Audubon Newhall Preserve is open year round during daylight hours, and there is no fee.
For more information, write the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society, P.O. Box 6185, Hilton Head Island, SC 29938-6185, call 843-842-9246 or visit www.hiltonheadaudubon.org.