Guale Preserve, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Tom and I recently revisited the Guale Preserve on St. Simons Island.  I wrote about it in 2000 when it first opened.  You can read that post here.  Because we have spent so much time on St. Simons Island, there isn’t much new for us to see or do.  Not a lot of fodder for the blog.  But we found some improvements to the Guale Preserve that are worth writing about.

To begin with, the Guale Preserve now has 3 miles of hiking trails as opposed to the 1.4 they had in 2000.  You can see the difference in the two trail maps below.

Tom and I decided to walk the perimeter of the trail system.  We walked Polly’s Loop through the North South Road Trail, the Pine Pond Trail, and then Headed back on the Hickory Grove Trail.  As we walked we noticed another change from our previous visits.  There were new, informational waysides along the trail.  They explained the plants and animals we could see on our hike.  The signs also talked about the important of marshes in preserving and protecting sea island habitats.

One notable tree was the pond pine.  I had never noticed this tree before, but the wayside pointed it out.  The pond pine (pinus serotina) grows in wet and warm places.  The tree is scrubby and crooked but has its place in this habitat.

Another new (very old) thing that we noticed on our walk was the cemetery.  We did not notice a cemetery when we walked here before.  This is the Village Cemetery, owned and maintained by the First African Baptist Church.  The cemetery is the final resting place of the African-Americans who lived on the island.  The earliest burials are from the early 1800’s continue today.  The cemetery is in a beautiful and quiet location, truly representing a place of rest for the those who worked so hard.

Tom and I walked along the Georgia Power Trail until we encountered deep puddles.  It had rained three inches the day before and the water covered the trail completely in certain areas.  We turned around the headed down Middle Road until we came to the next access to Ancient Dune Trail.  We were hoping to see some ancient dunes, but finally decided that the dunes were the land all around us.  There wasn’t a particular sign or wayside indicating a special place.

Another change to the Guale Preserve is access to water.  The St. Simons Land Trust got permission to clear the mud and sand off the existing boat ramp, allowing people to access Musgrove Creek.  In order to use the boat ramp, you have to make a reservation.  It is free, but you need this parking permit if you have a trailer.  There is also a picnic shelter and short trail at this spot at then end of Village Drive.

The Guale Preserve is a beautiful, serene, and quiet area of St. Simons Island.  The preserve is open every day from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is free.  It is a refuge of wildness in the middle of a very developed space.