Kiawah Island is a gated community and as such requires a guest access pass if you are not a property owner or reserved guest of the island. If you are not a property owner or reserved guest and would like to visit one of our preserved areas, please contact Collie Farah (Kiawah Conservancy Land Preservation Specialist) at email@example.com or 843-768-2029 to schedule a visit and obtain a gate pass for the island.
Preserved: December 2017
Size: 720 acres
Location: Western Kiawah River
Habitat Type: Tidal Salt Marsh and Hummock Island (Primarily Salt Shrub Thicket and Maritime Forest)
Conservation Value: Kiawah’s salt marshes provide habitats for two US Fish and Wildlife Service “at risk species” (black rail, McGillivray’s seaside sparrow), seven SCDNR State Wildlife Action Plan priority species (black rail, clapper rail, long billed curlew, yellow rail, marbled godwit, white ibis, whimbrel) and four US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program Strategic Plan focal species (black rail, McGillivray’s seaside sparrow, eastern oyster and semipalmated sandpiper). Additionally, undeveloped hummock islands provide critical resting space for migratory songbirds, such as painted buntings. These small islands are also utilized by a variety of mammals and reptiles, including diamondback terrapins. This marsh and hummock area provices wildlife habitat, critical maritime strand habitats, greenspace and scenic viewsheds, protection of water quality, and will provide a catalyst for future projects along the Kiawah River.
Preserved: December 2007
Size: 151.7 acres
Location: Forming the eastern-most tip of Kiawah, Little Bear Island is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Stono Inlet and is connected to The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort by a small strip of land.
Habitat Type: Maritime dune shrub thickets, Atlantic maritime dry grasslands, tidal salt marshes, tidal salt flats, salt shrub thickets and coastal beaches
Conservation Value: Described by a leading conservation easement attorney as “one of the most important conservation easements across the country,” the island hosts a wide variety resident and migratory wildlife species. It’s beaches welcome loggerhead turtles that arrive in the spring and summer to nest and dolphins are often seen in Penny’s Creek on the west side of the island. The tidal salt marsh and salt shrub thicket vegetation includes sea ox-eye, glasswort, marsh-elder, sea lavender and seaside goldenrod. Areas that receive salt water daily present a mosaic of black needle rush, saltwort and sea lavender. Hundreds of fiddler crabs can be seen scurrying around in the saltwort. The tidal salt flats are traversed by trails used by the many deer that inhabit the island. Footprints of bobcat and raccoon are not uncommon and red-winged blackbirds can be seen frequently flying in and out of the cordgrass. Plant succession on a barrier island away from the influence of salt spray will ultimately result in the development of maritime forests or maritime shrub thickets. In the maritime forest habitat canopy trees are abundant and include live oak, sand oak, red bay, yaupon holly, red cedar, wax myrtle, hackberry, winged sumac and cabbage palmetto. An occasional loblolly pine can also be found and several species of smilax, including dune greenbrier, dominate the habitat. Other common vines include Virginia creeper and muscadine grape. Atlantic maritime dry grassland plant communities are found on the sand dunes along the Stono River side of Little Bear Island. In this grassland habitat waves of sea oats are flanked by masses of camphorweed, prickly-pear cactus and fiddle-leaf morning glory. Grasses include salthay, seaside panicum, coastal dropseed and sweetgrass. Plants with onerous names such as devil’s joint, sandbur, Spanish bayonet and bear grass also occur in this habitat.
Preserved: March 6, 2018
Size: 1 acre
Location: Between Mingo South and “Mainland” Kiawah Island
Habitat Type: Hummock Island, Maritime Forest
Conservation Value: This 5-acre upland “finger,” that extends out into the marsh, is situated between Mingo South and “mainland” Kiawah Island.
Rabbit North, a piece of a hummock island bisected by the Kiawah Island Parkway, provides key habitat for several unique and at risk species. Data collected via GPS collars since 2007 indicates that bobcats regularly utilize the property. The Town of Kiawah Island’s “Bobcat Management Guidelines” (2014) delineates two nearby “Important Bobcat Areas,” used primarily for daytime resting cover. The salt shrub thicket habitat that forms the perimeter of Rabbit North provides key resting and movement habitat for bobcats. The property also likely provides habitat for additional mammals, including white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums and rodents. Besides bobcats, Rabbit North is used by a variety of birds, including painted buntings, cedar waxwings, Carolina chickadees, and red-bellied woodpeckers. The federally listed “at risk” monarch butterfly finds a robust foraging area here, as the numerous groundsel trees provide a vital fall food source for migrating and overwintering butterflies.
In addition to the typical marsh edge and hummock island plants, such as black needlerush, sea ox-eye daisy, southern red cedar, and live oak, Rabbit North contains southern magnolia, laurel oak, loblolly pine, slash pine, and pignut hickory in its upland areas. Unique understory plants found on Rabbit North include Hercules club, coral bean (in abundance), and partridgeberry. These plants are more typically encountered in Kiawah’s maritime forests.
Preserved: December 2002
Size: 0.71 acres
Location: 133 Conifer Lane
Habitat Type: Maritime forest
Conservation Value: The Maritime Forest Reserve and Nature Trail provides a unique outdoor learning experience. This open-air classroom, located near the entrance to the Kiawah community, features a variety of maritime forest plants. Informative signs located along the trail highlight plant details such as special adaptations and significance to wildlife habitat. Maritime forests, typically found on barrier islands like Kiawah, provide a protective buffer between the mainland and the sea. In addition to island stabilization, these coastal forests also perform other environmental functions such as supporting wildlife habitat, soil production, and nutrient conservation. Maritime forests create a natural cooling effect through their shade and act as a buffer against noise. The plant life within the maritime forest habitat is especially tolerant of the rough salt spray, sun, and wind conditions that exist on a barrier island. The wide variety of native plants found along the trail are not only beautiful, but are well suited to Kiawah’s growing conditions and help sustain wildlife on Kiawah Island. Bobcats, foxes, deer, rabbits and raccoons are some of the many animals which use the forest as a sheltered resting place and source of food.
Preserved: January 2015
Size: 8.1 acres
Location: Marsh Island Park
Habitat Type: Coastal hammock island
Conservation Value: Marsh Island Park is a coastal hammock island that provides a substantial area of natural habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Research indicates that these island habitats are being increasingly utilized by a number of migratory bird species, including painted buntings. The Marsh Island Park property is also an important daytime resting area and nighttime hunting area for bobcats, and was utilized by an adult female and her kittens in 2007.
Preserved: December 2017
Size: 13.25 Acres
Location: Entrance to Kiawah Island off of Kiawah Island Parkway
Habitat Type: hummock island, salt shrub thicket, maritime grassland, salt flat, maritime forest
Conservation Value: Mingo North and Mingo South are within a Town of Kiawah Island “Important Bobcat Area” that provides a critical daytime resting area for island bobcats. Additionally, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) studies have documented frequent use of these areas by bobcats. High density of southern red cedar provides abundance of fall and winter fruit for songbirds. Associated salt flats provide foraging space for shorebirds. Shrub thickets and maritime forests such as those found on Mingo North and Mingo South provide habitat for three US Fish and Wildlife Service “at risk species” (monarch butterfly, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, tri-colored bat) and three SCDNR State Wildlife Action Plan priority species (island glass lizard, painted bunting, tri-colored bat).
Preserved: January 2015
Size: 3.1 acres
Location: Adjacent to the Ocean Course, between Ibis Pond and Willet Pond
Habitat Type: Maritime forest, salt shrub thicket, maritime shrub thicket and tidal salt marsh
Conservation Value: The diversity of understory-rich habitats at the Ocean Course Drive Nature Area property provides a critical daytime resting and denning area for bobcats. The property was used as a den site during 2010 and 2012. In addition, there have been three den sites in areas directly adjacent to the Ocean Course Nature Area property.
Preserved: Janaury 2015
Size: 3.4 acres
Location: Osprey Point and Flyway Drive
Habitat Type: Maritime forest, freshwater wetlands, maritime shrub thicket and salt shrub thicket
Conservation Value: The Osprey Point Nature Area property has been regularly used by bobcats for daytime resting cover and is also a very important travel corridor (as indicated by Bobcat GPS Project data, 2007-current). The property is across Flyway Drive from the Ocean Palms subdivision – an area that was associated with one of the Island’s most important bobcat denning habitats prior to its development. The Osprey Point Nature Area property is large enough to potentially provide an alternative den site in the future.
Preserved: July 2011
Size: 4.88 acres
Location: Otter Island Road
Habitat Type: Tidal salt marsh and salt shrub thicket
Conservation Value: Salt shrub thickets are found on slightly elevated areas of Kiawah Island, adjacent to tidal salt marsh. They are only occasionally flooded by high tides and frequently serve as a transition area between the marsh and forested uplands. These thickets, which often occur as bands or patches of salt tolerant rushes, grasses and shrubs, are heavily used by bobcats as den sites and for resting cover. They are also utilized by a myriad of birds, including several migratory species, including the painted bunting. Plant species that characterize the salt shrub thicket habitat type include black needlerush, marsh elder, groundseltree and red cedar.
Preserved: December 2002
Size: 2.09 acres
Location: Located within Horseshoe Creek Marsh near Landfall Way off Seabrook Beach Road
Habitat Type: Maritime forest, hummock island, tidal salt marsh and salt shrub thicket
Conservation Value: The marsh adjacent to this hummock island is covered with pluff mud and typical marsh vegetation, including smooth cordgrass, saltwort, broom sedge, marsh elder, and sea ox-eye daisy. There are also abundant shells of mussels and marsh periwinkle. Though the island is only a foot or two higher than the surrounding marsh, its vegetation is that of a mature maritime forest with abundant live oak, loblolly pine, yaupon holly, red cedar, and wax myrtle. Other vegetation on the island includes sweet grass, yucca, broom sedge, coral bean, prickly pear, a variety of catbriers (smilax species), and cabbage palmetto. The oaks are surprisingly old and well developed, with some up to two feet in diameter. The island harbors a variety of birdlife including typical marsh birds: snowy egret, great egret, great blue heron, cormorants, and hooded mergansers. But the most interesting is the abundance of woodpeckers, including the usual red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and flickers, and the less common (on Kiawah Island) red headed woodpecker. In addition to these birds, the island also provides habitat for towhee, Carolina wren, yellow-rumped warblers, white-throated sparrow, mockingbird, tufted titmouse, and several hawks, including osprey and northern harriers. The island is used as a secluded nesting site for many of these species. Other wildlife on the island includes deer, raccoons, opossums, and other small animals. The island is used by a variety of species as a sanctuary where animals can live undisturbed by humankind.