Any time you see water in Georgia, whether you’re driving over one of the state’s mighty rivers or walking under an umbrella during a rain storm, you might be seeing a part of the Georgia coast.
Well, maybe not quite any part of the state.
But it’s true that much of the water in Georgia eventually drains to the rivers and tributaries that make their way to the Atlantic Ocean.
That’s why The Nature Conservancy’s Georgia Coast Project is so important – and so vast. It encompasses the estuarine and near-shore habitats from the islands of the Ogeechee River south to the islands of the Altamaha River, more than 1 million acres. Almost half of these acres are marshland which comprises one-third of all marshes along the East Coast.
The Georgia Coast Project includes 14 barrier islands, 100 miles of sand beaches, 300 square miles of open Atlantic Ocean, nine major estuaries (salt marsh and open water), and 3,400 miles of tidal shoreline. What does such an expansive area look like? Vast forests of pines, cabbage palms, and live oaks draped with lacey Spanish moss stand over a dense understory filled with shrubs and smaller trees like American holly, cherry laurel, red bay, saw palmetto, and wax myrtle.
This forest landscape gently eases into expansive salt marshes. Here, blankets of smooth cordgrass unfold to meet the western edge of barrier islands where dunes of hard-packed white quartz sand are grown over with sea oats, pennyworts, and morning glories. The islands, fringed with oyster reefs, stand as silent sentries facing the Atlantic and protecting Georgia’s coast from its powerful force.
All of this is The Nature Conservancy’s Georgia coast, its beauty alone enough to make it distinctive. But there’s more. The staggering diversity of plant and animal life, combined with these unique estuarine and near-shore habitats, create an area that is truly extraordinary. The Altamaha River Delta alone is visited each year by more than 55,000 shorebirds.
Unfortunately, these areas are also some of the most threatened habitats in the United States, making the plants and animals that depend on them vulnerable as well. Incompatible development and forestry practices, hardened shoreline, sea level rise and climate change, invasive species, pollution and water withdrawal are just some of the issues we face.
Since the Conservancy first began working on the Georgia coast with the protection of Egg Island in 1969, the pace has not slowed. Nor has the urgency. In fact, today the need is even greater. As the scope of work expanded, so has our range of partners. Our current projects include everything from land acquisition to sharing expertise, and from assisting with policy making to organizing volunteers in habitat restoration projects.
Get involved in our work to protect the Georgia coast! Read more below and find opportunities to experience this incredible place.
Our desire for this delicacy, combined with other factors, has led to a decline in oyster reefs on the Georgia coast and around the world. But we are using science to bring them back
Careful planning based on science can help avoid conflicts when it comes to managing our oceans. Read about cutting-edge maps that will help leaders make more informed decisions
Thousands of migratory birds stop on our shores to raise their young, snack on local delicacies and rest. Learn about birds like the painted bunting that flock to the Georgia coast