As you drive over the bridge to Hilton Head Island, you go over Pinckney Island.
The bridge is the Mackay Creek bridge. As you go over it, you can see the big sign that says Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Pinckney Island is between Hilton Head and the mainland. It is nearly 4 miles long, 1 ¾ miles wide, 4,053 acres.
The island is absolutely pristine. See the faint rainbow in the photo above?
Pinckney Island is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge includes Pinckney Island, Corn Island, Big Harry and Little Harry Islands, Buzzard Island and the small hammocks around them. Pinckney Island is the only island open to the public.
You can see 253 different species of birds on Pinckney Island. The refuge is the ideal habitat for wading birds like endangered wood storks, herons and a variety of egrets. The cattails and brackish water (where fresh water mixes with salty ocean water) is the ideal habitat for other birds.
More than 14 miles of roads and trails wind through the island. They are accessible only by bicycle or foot. No motor vehicles are allowed beyond the parking area.
The island also has a maritime forest of live oaks, palmettos, magnolias, pine black gums. Trails wind through canopied archways of Spanish moss.
“Charles Cotesworth Pinckney built his home at White Point and developed a thriving long-staple cotton plantation. The home was destroyed in 1824.”
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Pinckney Island also has a population of White Tailed Deer. They are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. There are alligators, of course. You can also see armadillos.
Pinckney Island Trails
There are miles of hiking trails.
Here are some suggested routes.
- Ibis Pond
2 miles round trip; one and a half hours walking at a leisurely pace
- Shell Point
6 miles round trip; four hours and 15 minutes
- Wood Stork Pond
7 miles round trip; two and a half hours
- Osprey Pond
0 miles round trip; three hours
- Nini Chapin Pond
6 miles round trip; three and a half hours
- Bull Point
0 miles round trip; five hours
- Dick Point
4 miles round trip; six and a half hours
- Clubhouse Pond
2 miles round trip; five and a half hours
- White Point
8 miles round trip; seven hours
At one time Pinckney Island had four plantations growing indigo, rice and Sea Island cotton.
Inhabited for some 10,000 years, Pinckney Island was known as Espalanga, Look-out, and Mackey’s prior to about 1775. Alexander Mackey received to Proprietary grants for land on the island in 1710. Charles Pinckney later owned the island and willed it in 1769 to his son, Charles Cotesworth, who became a successful planter here.
James Bruce, former military aide to President Woodrow Wilson, purchased the island from the Pinckneys in 1937 and developed it into a small-game hunting preserve. In 975 Margaret and James Barker and Edward Starr, Jr. donated the island to the United States for a wildlife refuge and a nature and forest preserve.
There are 115 prehistoric and historic sites on Pinckney Island.