Guale Preserve on St. Simons Island

Last week Tom and I went bike riding and discovered a new place on the island:  Guale Preserve.  We like to go bike riding at least once a week, and our favorite ride is the 14 miles from Fort Frederica to Hampton Point.  There is a wonderful bike trail and, because this is the less populated north side of the island, we don’t have to cross many roads or encounter as much traffic.  We did not expect to encounter a new 110 acre wetland preserve on the island.

Guale Preserve is owned by the St. Simons Land Trust, purchased over the last five years from the Brenn Foundation.  The land was previously owned by the Reynolds family, who built six cottages on the property and used it as a winter retreat.  When the family was not in residence, the property was used for retreats, weddings, and conferences.  There are formal gardens, a wonderful view of the marshes, and plenty of trails through the coastal maritime forest.

The Guale Preserve is the undeveloped 110 acres of the 258 acres purchased by the St. Simons Land Trust.  As far as I can tell, the part of the estate with the cottages and formal gardens is still being used as a retreat center called Musgrove Plantation (sleeps up to 50 people).  Last year Tom and I drove through the Musgrove Plantation with Mom and Dad.  We weren’t supposed to be on the land, but the gate was open so we drove through.  The Musgrove Plantation has only been open to the public once a year during the Christ Church Tour of Homes.

The one trail currently open

Tom and I stopped by to see what they have done with the Guale Preserve.  There is currently one hiking and biking trail about 1.2 miles long.  More trails are being developed.  Most of the land is coastal maritime forest, so the trails aren’t much different from the nature trail at Fort Frederica.  The Guale Preserve protects land that is home to the Georgia state reptile, the Gopher Tortoise, and other endangered and threatened plant and animal species.  Eventually there will be a birding station and fishing dock.

With so much of the island under development, it is good to see a section of it set aside for preservation.  Tom and I will enjoy walking in the woods at Guale Preserve.  The preserve is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.