The southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands, Cumberland Island is also the largest, if marshland is excluded from acreage. Larger than Manhattan, the island is approximately 16 miles long and 3 miles at its widest. Sand beaches and dune systems protect the island from the sea, and the island, in turn, protects the salt marshes separating it from the mainland. Its interior is a well-preserved maritime forest dotted with freshwater ponds, saltwater coves, and swamps.
These critical habitats harbor a wide diversity of life. Loggerhead turtles nest on the island’s northern beach, alligators inhabit the ponds and swamps, and shorebirds like pelicans, egrets, and herons can be spotted foraging or flying.
Cumberland Island’s natural treasures are preserved in large part by Cumberland Island National Seashore, established in 1972, which protects 17.5 miles of beaches and 36,415 acres of dunes, forest, swamp, ponds, and marshes. The National Seashore is managed by the National Park Service and encompasses the Cumberland Wilderness, established in 1982, for a total of 9,886 acres. Accessible by ferry, the island is open to deer-hunters, fishers, campers, and anyone who wants to enjoy one of Georgia’s best preserved barrier islands. To preserve the fragile habitat, bicycles, pets, and indiscriminate dune crossing are not allowed.
In 1999, The Nature Conservancy finalized the purchase of 1,108 acres on Cumberland Island and transferred 934 acres to the National Park Service to manage for public enjoyment. The remaining 173 acres are still owned by TNC and are managed by the National Park Service.
Southeast Georgia Conservation Office
U.S. Hwy 17 South - Butler Island
Atlanta, GA 30309