BLUFFTON’S STAN ROGERS LEADS GRAY’S REEF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY

Growing up in the small Lowcountry town of Estill, Stan Rogers lived an hour inland from the broad, flat Atlantic beaches along South Carolina’s coast. But Hilton Head Island always felt like part of the neighborhood.

“We were always going to the beach, down to Coligny, when I was growing up,” he says. “I wasn’t born on Hilton Head, but my backyard was the beach.”

A GUIDE TO BIRD-WATCHING IN THE LOWCOUNTRY

Whether you’re experienced or a neophyte hoping to spot an elusive rare species or observe many birds in myriad ecosystems, resident or visitor, the Lowcountry offers rich opportunities for bird-watching year-round. 

With ecosystems ranging from maritime forests to freshwater ponds, streams, beaches, dunes and salt marshes, the area offers a diverse palette of avian life. Some 200 species make the area their home, while another 150 species have at least visited in recent years. 

FORT HOWELL GIVES VISITORS A VIEW OF THE CIVIL WAR

On Nov. 7, 1861, some 20,000 Union forces charged ashore on Hilton Head Island only to find that all Confederate fighters and white civilians had fled inland. The island was soon to become the United States’ Southern military headquarters for the duration of the war. 

About a year later, Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel decided to create Mitchelville, a town run entirely by, and for, formerly enslaved island residents. And in late summer 1864, members of the 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and the 144th New York Infantry hand built Fort Howell, a hulking earthworks fort, to protect the new town. 

Funds provide needed upgrades at Waddell Mariculture Center

Both the human researchers at Bluffton’s Waddell Mariculture Research and Development Center and their charges — important fish species native to Port Royal Sound — are now safer and more comfortable, thanks to a series of renovations and upgrades nearing completion.

The changes include everything from shoring up a crumbling concrete second-story office floor, to the installment of new climate-control and filtration systems that allows the facility to more safely and efficiently raise fish at its indoor hatchery.

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSETS ALWAYS A PRIORITY AS SOUTHERN BEAUFORT COUNTY GROWS

Newcomers often sense the difference when they visit southern Beaufort County for the first time. The development ambience of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton has a different feel from other places. Most can’t put their finger on the difference, but they know it’s real. 

The land itself is similar to other locations along the Carolinas and Georgia coast, but there is something special here. 

USCB STUDENT FROM HILTON HEAD JOINS SHARK RESEARCH TEAM

Could bacteria on the skin of sharks be a source of new antibiotics for humans? The answer to this and many other questions may come from research conducted by scientists affiliated with OCEARCH, including the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Dr. Kim Ritchie and her student assistant, Lincoln Fuller of Hilton Head Island.

SEA TURTLE PATROL, TURTLE TRACKERS VOLUNTEERS DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE

At 5 a.m., most people are still sleeping or slowly starting their day. But Amber Kuehn and the dedicated members of Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island embody the term “early risers.”  

Before sunrise, Kuehn, Sea Turtle Patrol HHI manager, and members of the nonprofit group head to the beach in a coordinated effort to preserve the lives and spread awareness of sea turtles.  

HELP SCIENTISTS LEARN ABOUT OUR MOST FASCINATING WILDLIFE

Admit it: You may not always see them, but you always look for them.

Sneaking a quick glance from the Cross Island Parkway and the bridges that connect Hilton Head Island to the mainland, most of us scan the waters below for the tell-tale fins of bottlenose dolphins as they break the surface.

LOCAL SCUBA FANS TAKE EXPLORATION TO NEW DEPTHS, URGE BOATER CAUTION

The first time Matt Garbade went scuba diving in the May River, the darkness was unsettling. But coming back up to the surface was even more harrowing. 

Garbade is one of a growing number of divers who brave the Lowcountry’s murky waters in search of treasures, and while he’s grown accustomed to exploring the river bed with limited visibility, he still feels uneasy about coming back to the surface because of boaters who don’t always heed the warnings that divers are in the area. 

CYPRESS AND TUPELO GIANTS STAND GUARD AT EBENEZER CREEK

A kayak and canoe trail winds through the tupelo-cypress swamp at Ebenezer Creek. Locals know that paddling is the best way to experience this unique habitat. 

“This is a wild and scenic waterway,” said Brian Cohen of Backwater Expeditions, an adventure outfitter helping people explore this protected wetland. “It’s fed by several artesian springs.”