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  • 3 Min Read
  • 30 Sep 2021

5 Things You Didn't Know: South Carolina & Georgia

Time stands still in the serene salt marshes, wildlife refuges, and island villages of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Here, horses roam freely on windswept shores, driftwood forests create otherworldly landscapes, and vestiges of early African American culture endure to tell important stories of history and community. Read on for five things you might not know about these beguiling Southern states. 

 

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It Has the Most Salt Marsh on the East Coast

There’s something very serene about a salt marsh, where calm fresh and salt water comingle and snake through grasses and tidal creeks. South Carolina and Georgia have more of these coastal wetlands than any other region, and these rich intertidal habitats support oysters, fiddler crabs, terrapins, and occasionally even alligators and bottlenose dolphins. Salt marshes are best known for birds, though. Marsh wren and clapper rails nest here, but it’s the wading birds you are most likely to see, like wood storks and great blue herons, as well as shorebirds and seabirds like American oystercatchers, and brown pelicans, and songbirds like saltmarsh sparrow. Salt marshes also reduce erosion and efficiently absorb carbon, cementing their place in the pantheon of critical ecosystems.

Wood stork soars over a salt marsh

It’s One of Few Places in the U.S. You’ll Hear African Creole

If you’ve ever sung the campfire song “Kumbayah,” you’ve unwittingly spoken Gullah. The only distinctly African-American creole language in the United States, Gullah is today spoken by fewer than 5,000 people in small South Carolina and Georgia coastal communities with wonderful names like Hog Hammock. Descendants of enslaved people mostly from West Africa, the Gullah developed their own tongue, building on words from English, Scots, and multiple African languages. In addition to the language, which has influenced Southern vocabulary and speech patterns, the isolation of these communities has also helped preserve a rich culture of storytelling, craftwork, and cuisine of African origin.

You Can Walk Through an Otherworldly Driftwood Forest

Most of us have picked up small pieces of driftwood on a beach, but imagine entire driftwood trees covering a stretch of sand just like sculptures. Dramatic and ethereal, rare and otherworldly, driftwood forests occur as the sea claims maritime forests whose sand barriers give way to erosion. These "boneyard beaches," as they are known, are adorned with the ever-changing twisted shapes of trees in different configurations. You might see one upright with its trunk feet deep in the ocean, a lone individual prone with its roots exposed, or a cluster of trees intertwined in intricate formations. With this unusual, wild landscape and the region's legendary sunsets, driftwood forests are a photographer’s dream.

Horses Roam Freely on a Windswept Island

On Georgia’s Cumberland Island, horses meander on dirt roads lined with live oaks, graze in dune meadows, and gallop in the salt spray along 17 miles of undeveloped coastline. The only non-managed feral horses on the Atlantic coast, this herd of about 150 are descended from the Tennessee Walkers, Arabians, Paso Fino, and American Quarter Horses that were brought to the island over the centuries for transportation and field work; and later in the Carnegie era, for recreation like riding and hunting. Formerly domesticated, they now roam freely with no human intervention. Admire their wild beauty from a distance as they blend into the tapestry of this unique ecosystem.

It’s Home to North America’s Oldest Black Church

Pre-dating the United States itself, Savannah’s First African Baptist Church is a pioneering congregation. Organized in 1773 and constituted in 1777, it is the oldest African American congregation in North America. In addition, it has ties to the Underground Railroad and its founding pastor became America’s first missionary when he migrated to Jamaica in 1782. The church’s third minister organized the first Black Sunday School in North America; and the first federal credit union housed in a church began providing savings and credit accounts here in 1954. It’s much more than a building, but its present edifice, which dates to 1859 and is listed on the National Register, has many notable features. Keep an eye out for light fixtures that were originally gas; and in this church that was built by enslaved people, notice the BaKongo Cosmogram, comprised of West African prayer symbol pictograms, which is carved into the floor.

Discover all this and more on our brand-new voyages along South Carolina & Georgia's seaboard.

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