Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is in Beaufort County between Skull Creek and Mackay Creek, with the island’s northern tip facing Port Royal Sound.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is in Beaufort County between Skull Creek and Mackay Creek, with the island’s northern tip facing Port Royal Sound. The entrance is one-half mile west of Hilton Head Island on South Carolina Highway 278. The refuge was established on December 4, 1975, and was opened to the public in 1985. It is comprised of four islands: Corn, Little Harry, Big Harry, and Pinckney. The largest island, Pinckney Island (twelve hundred acres), is the only one open to the public. From 1736 to 1936 the refuge was owned by the family and descendants of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and managed as a cotton plantation. Other crops planted include corn, lentils, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and grain. From 1937 to 1975 the island was managed as a game preserve. Nearly two-thirds of the refuge consists of salt marsh and tidal creeks. Pinckney Island has a large variety of habitats including forestland, brushland, fallow field, salt marsh, and freshwater ponds. Management of the refuge focuses primarily on wading birds. During spring and summer, the freshwater ponds host large concentrations of nesting ibis, herons, and egrets. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and neotropical migrants such as the colorful painted bunting also are commonly seen. There are active osprey and bald eagle nests. American alligators bask on the banks of the ponds during spring and fall, while deer and fox squirrels may be encountered any time of the year. The refuge provides hiking and biking trails excellent for wildlife observation and photography.