Continuing our consistent love and appreciation of our beautiful Lowcountry, we are going to be talking about the history of and all you need to know about Hunting Island State Park!
Hello, adventurers and welcome back to the blog! The Lowcountry has come to life and is in full bloom and ready for summer to explode onto the scene! There is so much already happening and going on it’s hard to just focus on one thing at a time to enjoy and experience, but we love that about this season. Everything is getting us excited and ready to jump into this amazing season with you! Right now, our tours are ready for you to enjoy, we have a ton of opportunities, classes, and tours for kids, we have seen a plethora of dolphins already, and Mother’s Day brought the very first nest of loggerhead sea turtles to the Cape Romain NWR. Every nest will have about 140 eggs, and of those 140 usually only one will make it back to lay its eggs on the beach as an adult! In our next blog, we will be talking about all things loggerheads and conservation to save and protect these amazing creates. In this blog, we are going to be talking about one of our most favorite expeditions locations in the Lowcountry, and its unique and interesting history. Today we are going to be talking about Hunting Island State Park!
In our last blog dedicated to the original locals of the Lowcountry, the bottlenose dolphin, we mentioned our Hunting Island Dolphin Cruise! That cruise and the mention of its amazing final destination in our last blog inspired today’s topic. It inspired us so much that we wanted to dig a little deeper into the history and story of this amazing location! Our Hunting Island Dolphin Cruise is offered on Wednesdays and Sundays and is one you need to put at the top of your to-do list. This tour in particular is fun and educational, and will take our adventurers on a tour through the salt marsh estuary, all while you look about for bottlenose dolphins. The tour will also offer you a chance to see pods of bottlenose dolphins feeding in the estuary, bald eagles, ospreys, and other native birds of prey. You might also see brown pelicans diving for fish, shorebirds, egrets, herons, work storks, and roseate spoonbills. Your onboard naturalist from Coastal Expeditions will also share a ton of fun and interesting facts about local history as it intertwines with the natural history of these waters dating from the prehistorical habitation of the ingenious people to the very first Western European settlers in our state in the mid-seventeenth century. Fun Fact! We’ve seen dolphins every time that we’ve offered this trip! Now that you know a little bit more about our ecotour dedicated to Hunting Island, let’s learn a little bit more about the history and story of this incredible state park!
According to South Carolina Parks, Hunting Island State Park is South Carolina’s single most popular state park and attracts more than a million visitors every year, and those are just the human visitors. Along with more than a million human visitors every year, a huge array of marine and land wildlife call the park home for at least one season throughout the year. The park offers a stunning five-mile beach, 5.000 acres of maritime and marsh forest, an ocean inlet, a saltwater lagoon, and of course, the Hunting Island Lighthouse. Out of all the lighthouses in South Carolina, the Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only one that has public access. At a whopping 130 feet tall, the lighthouse offers an amazing view! The state park boasts 100 campsites that have water and electrical hookups, shower and restroom facilities, a playground, and beach walkways. It’s a gem of a state park that offers so much to anyone who visits. There is also a nature center to enjoy, a pier to enjoy a stroll on or to fish off of, and a picnic shelter! There is also plenty of hiking, biking trails, nature trails, boating and paddling are available, you can enjoy the lighthouse gift shop or park store, and Wifi is even included throughout the campground and around the lighthouse, visitor center, and park store!
The park also has many of its own unique features. Due to changing season and the battle against erosion that the park is fighting and has been for some time now, the park is always changing. No two experiences or visits will ever be the same. Thanks to the migratory patterns of both creatures from the air and sky, there is always something new and exciting to see. One of the park’s most unique features and gems is the saltwater lagoon. The lagoon was created after some sand dredging in 1968 and is now home to barracudas, sea horses, and more. It is common throughout the year for visitors to spot loggerhead sea turtles and their nests on the beach, deer, diamondback rattlesnakes, and much more.
This amazing park that is located just 16 miles east of Beaufort has had an amazing history and it continues to be appreciated every day. The name, Hunting Island, was given to this amazing area because it was once a huge hunting presence in the early 19th century. Today, all of the wildlife is protected and no hunting is allowed. Before it became Hunting Island, it was owned by Richard Reynolds. The Reynolds family held onto it throughout most of the 18th century. After it passed from the Reynolds, the whole island was subdivided and was known to be a popular location that planters and farmers would go to for weeks to hunt and fish. By the time that Captain John Fripp and Company purchased 2000 acres of the island, it was already named and established as Hunting Island because of its popularity connected to hunting. After its 1858 purchase by John Fripp, the name stuck.
The first lighthouse on the island was built on the north end in 1858 by the US government. It was first destroyed by confederate soldiers during the Civil War to disrupt the travel of union soldiers. In 1875 the lighthouse was rebuilt with cast iron plates so it could be moved and relocated if it needed to be. Erosion, one of the park’s biggest enemies to this day, forced the lighthouse to be moved back over a mile away from its original position in 1889. The lighthouse that stands today is the one that was moved in 1889. This lighthouse has lasted through some of the most destructive hurricanes, including one in 1893 that damaged a lot of the island. The lighthouse was in full operation up until 1933.
After it passed through many different hands, both federal and private, the island started its process to become a state park in the 1930s after President Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps. Finally after almost a decade, and multiple obstacles, the park opened to the public in 1941. WWII caused a halt in production and throughout the war, the coastguard occupied the island that the Air Corps used the lighthouse as a radio tower. Finally, in 1967, the Forest Commission transferred ownership of the park to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. Today, in all of its glory. It is one of the very few underdeveloped barrier islands in South Carolina. However, ever since 1889, and the erosion that caused the lighthouse to be moved, the erosion has continued to get worse with each passing day. It is one of the fastest eroding beaches on the East Coast. Every year, around 15 feet of sand is washed away from the beach, according to Friends of Hunting Island. Every since 1969, eight beach renourishment projects have been carried out to prevent and delay any more erosion. The most recent was finished in 2007. Two were directly paid for by the state of South Carolina and the others were supplemented by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. As the years continue, erosion will continue to happen unless drastic measures are put into place.
There are so many reasons to visit this amazing start park. It’s beauty, history, amenities, wildlife and marine life, its lighthouse, and the fact that erosion is fighting against time and the island itself. We encourage you to join us on our Hunting Island Dolphin Cruise or enjoy the park yourself. It is a special place for every adventurer and offers something special to everyone in return! Are you looking for nature tours, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, island tours, kid-friendly tours, and chances to explore all around you right here in the Lowcountry? We can help you with all of that and more! Until next time, get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!