Get ready for an unforgettable adventure to Georgia’s third-largest barrier island, Ossabaw Island.
Ossabaw Island is one of the Sea Islands located off the coast of Georgia approximately. By water, it is twenty miles by water south from Historic Downtown Savannah. One of the largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, Ossabaw contains 9,000 acres of wooded uplands with freshwater ponds. 16,000 acres of the Island consist of marshlands interlaced with tidal creeks. No bridge or causeway links Ossabaw to the mainland. At 26,000 acres, it is the third-largest barrier island off the coast of Georgia.
You may not know it, but 13 miles of Ossabaw Island’s beaches are open to the public. Going there offers a rare chance to witness loggerhead sea turtles and wood storks nesting, as well as alligators and wild boar wandering freely. This is an ideal sanctuary for nature and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages, so don’t miss out on this enriching playground. Charter boats and kayak companies such as Bull River Cruises, Sea Kayak Georgia, and Savannah Coastal Ecotours offer tours to get there. Visitors are allowed from sun up to sun down and cannot travel inland without a permit.
History of Ossabaw
The Guale Indians inhabited the Island at the time of the Spanish exploration of the Georgia coast in the early 16th century. Throughout the Spanish mission period, the Guale alternately supplied and fought with the Spanish. The Guale moved inland when English occupation of the area replaced the Spanish in the 1730s. The earliest English treaties reserved the island as hunting and fishing grounds for the Creek Indians.
In 1758 a group of Creek leaders was persuaded to convey the island to King George II of Great Britain. In 1760, Ossabaw was divided into four plantations, using 155 enslaved people. After the Civil War Ossabaw, owners farmed on a smaller scale, until the early 20th century. In 1907 Savannah native, Henry D. Weed, purchased over 9000 acres, and by 1916 Weed solely owned Ossabaw. After 1916 Ossabaw became a hunting retreat.
In 1961 the Ossabaw Foundation created by Eleanor Torrey West and Clifford B. West launched the Ossabaw Island Project as an artistic and scholarly retreat. In 1978, the Foundation could no longer able to subsidize artistic, educational, and scientific activity. After eschewing lucrative offers of resort development, Mrs. West and her nephews chose to sell Ossabaw to the State of Georgia as a Heritage Preserve.
Currently, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages Ossabaw. This is in agreeance with the Ossabaw Island Foundation, a Savannah-based non-profit organization that regulates access and use of historic areas. The foundation works cooperatively with the State of Georgia’s DNR to manage access to Ossabaw for public educational programs. Some examples of the research involve nesting of loggerhead sea turtles, monitoring migratory bird patterns, investigating tooth wear of deer fawns and genetic studies on feral Sicilian donkeys.