Georgia on My Mind: Cumberland Island National Seashore

As with many parks, fire was a major concern to managers. A massive fire on the north end of the Island burned 1,700 acres in 1981.

A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early January (2012) firefighters from three agencies worked with hand tools to fight a small fire burning in grasses and trees near Willow Pond at the midpoint of the 16-mile-long barrier island. After burning for more than a day, the fire covered 45 acres—or less than 1/10th of a square mile.

Most visitors come to Cumberland come for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history.

Its splendor will be here for future generations. The bill Nixon signed October 23, 1972, stipulates that the seashore “shall be permanently preserved in its primitive state” and no project can be undertaken that would jeopardize the island‘s “unique flora and fauna.”

Governor Sonny Perdue selected Cumberland Island National Seashore as Georgia’s site to be represented on America’s Beautiful National Park’s Quarter program. The new quarter will be minted in 2018.

The seashore is accessible by foot-only, passenger ferry from the historic community of St. Marys, Georgia, and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Did You Know?

Dungeness burned nearly to the ground in 1959 from a fire suspected as arson, but its ruins are a must-see for visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dungeness burned nearly to the ground in 1959 from a fire suspected as arson, but its ruins are a must-see for visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island contains four major historic districts and 87 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Details

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore, on the Georgia coast, includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is also home to one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States, one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast, and a herd of feral, free-ranging horses.

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes a designated wilderness area, undeveloped beaches, historic sites, cultural ruins, critical wildlife habitat, and nesting areas, as well as numerous plant and animal communities. Interpretive and educational programs are available; you may hear compelling stories of the people who have shaped and been shaped by Cumberland. Most visitors come only for the day.

Getting to the Island: Accessible by ferry boat from Visitor Center dock in St. Marys. Ferry is walk-on, passenger-only. All trips are round-trip. Ferry does not transport pets, bikes, kayaks or cars. To make ferry reservation, 912-882-4335.

Reservations are required for both the ferry and camping. Visitors must check in 30 minutes before departure at the Cumberland Island Visitor Center or the reservation will be canceled.

The ferry is a walk on, passenger only ferry. All trips are round trip. No pets are allowed on the ferry.

Directions: From I-95 take Exit 3, turn east on SR 40; follow signs into St. Marys where SR 40 becomes Osborne Street which dead-ends at St. Marys Street; turn right on St. Marys Street (National Park Service Visitor Center is in a blue building; it and ferry dock are both located on left)

Visitor Center: 113 St. Marys Street, St. Marys, GA 31558

Hours: Open daily 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Ferry Fees: $20; Senior, $18; Children under 12 years, $14

Entrance Fees: $4/person (valid for 7 days) or Golden Age/Golden Access and America the Beautiful–National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Lands and Legacies Tour: $15; Senior and children under 12, $12.

We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: Reservations are recommended. Cumberland has one campground with showers and other facilities at Sea Camp. Wilderness and backcountry campgrounds are located at Stafford Beach, Brick Hill Bluff, Yankee Paradise and Hickory Hill.

Camping Fees: $4 per person per day at Sea Camp; $2 per person per day at other campgrounds.

Food and Drink: No concessions on island; bring your own lunch; restrooms and drinking water located at Ice House Museum, Dungeness Historic Area, Sea Camp Ranger Station, Sea Camp Campground, and Plum Orchard.

Mailing Address: 101 Wheeler Street, St. Marys, GA 31558

Phone: (912) 882-4336

Website: nps.gov/cuis

Please Note: This is part two of a 2-part series on Cumberland Island National Seashore

Part 1: Cumberland Island National Seashore Turns 40

Worth Pondering…

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—Georgia On My Mind, lyrics by Stuart Gorrell, written by Hoagy Carmichael (1930), recorded by Ray Charles (1960), official state song of the State of Georgia (1979)

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