Cumberland Island, Georgia (1988)

Cumberland island is 36,000 acres in size and 16 mile long (3 miles wide at its widest point), including 8,840 acres of wilderness area. Established in 1972. Designated a Biosphere Reserve. Magnificent and unspoiled beaches and dunes, marshes, and freshwater lakes.

I have vacationed on the island several times to backpack, camp, and bicycle. The camping is primitive and the water is from wells (and has a strong sulfur taste which required us to make tea with it to hide the taste). But the experience is well worth it. The island displays highly diverse ecosystems, ferral pigs, burros, and horses, and has almost no humans on it. The photo shows two ferral burros that approach us on the beach. They are so friendly that it was difficult for me to take a picture of them, since each time I kneel down to take a picture, one of them sticks his/her nose right into my camera lens. The photo below shows two ferral horses on Grand Avenue. Since almost all of the land is federally-owned and only a few people are allowed to visit the island (by ferry) each day, the ecosystems are well protected.

On one day, while trail riding, we come across four snakes lying on the trail. I have mountain-biked for several miles on the islands trails and beach, and my exhaustion makes them more of a curiosity than a terror. The island is heavily wooded, especially with broadly branching oaks.

More about Cumberland

The highest point on the island is a mere 50 feet above sea level. It is separated from the mainland by several kilometers of salt marsh, river, and sound. The beach is filled with a wide variety of shells, indicating the abundant life offshore. Over 300 species of birds have been seen on the island. Each year, female loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay eggs.

The island was established in 1972 to preserve the scenic, scientific, and historical values of the island. In accordance with Congressional legislation, the Seashore will be permanently protected in its primitive state. No road or causeway from the mainland will be built. Approximately 85 percent of the island is federally owned.

As early as 4,000 years ago, marine-oriented Indians lived on Cumberland Island, which they called Missoe. In 1566, the Spanish governor of Florida directed the construction of a fort on the island, which was named San Pedro. A Franciscan mission established on the island converted a large number of Timucuan Indians. During the next 200 years, England, France, and Spain fought for control of the Southeast. In 1736, General James Oglethorpe renamed the island Cumberland at the suggestion of Toonahowi, an Indian who visited the Duke of Cumberland in England. The English built forts at the northern and southern ends of the island, and a hunting lodge known as Dungeness. General Nathanael Greene purchased a large amount of the island in 1783 for harvesting the oaks for shipbuilding, but died soon after the purchase. His widow, Catharine, built Dungeness, an impressive 4-story tabby mansion. In 1862, Cumberland's plantation era ends when Union troops round up the islands slaves and transport them to Amelia Island. A fire destroys the mansion during this period. In 1881, Thomas Carnegie, brother of financier Andrew, purchased the Dungeness property and begins building an elegant home. But Carnegie died shortly after the mansion was completed. His widow, Lucy, acquired most of the island.


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