On the state borders of North and South Carolina lies the Bird Island state reserve, an undeveloped stretch of barrier island that's located in between Sunset Beach and Little River Inlet in South Carolina. This larger site boasts approximately 1,200 acres, which includes 136 upland acres and over 1,060 acres of marsh, intertidal flats, and subtidal area.
Because of its isolation and lack of development, this Reserve site is an exceptional example of a barrier island ecosystem, and is even home to a few rare species. The typical barrier island biotic communities are all present, including upper beach, dune grass, maritime dry grassland, maritime wet grassland, maritime shrub thicket, maritime shrub swamp, brackish marsh, salt shrub, salt flat, and salt marsh. Several tidal creeks ( Bonaparte Creek, Clayton Creek, and East River) are also found within the site.
In addition, this reserve is special for the appearance of nesting loggerhead sea turtles during the spring through fall months, and for its seabeach amaranth, a plant of the foredune area. Both of these species are listed as threatened, a small step below endangered, by the federal and state governments.
The easiest public access to the site is from the ocean beach on North Carolina's Sunset Beach side, although boats ay land on the island as well via Little River Inlet on the South Carolina side.
After Hurricane Bonnie in 1999, which closed Mad Inlet, visitors may now access the entire length of the island at all times. The upland property begins at the boundary with Sunset Beach and continues about 0.9 miles until it meets the Corps of Engineers property approximately 0.4 miles from the state line. The sound and marsh areas of the Reserve can occasionally be accessed by boat, depending on the vessel's draft and the island's tide levels.
How to Get There
For folks interested in a self-guided walking tour of Bird Island by foot, there is a small parking area in Sunset Beach available at the end of Main Street, just past the intersection of 40th and Main Streets. Overflow parking is also available along the street. Once you're there, take the 40th street boardwalk beach access to the ocean and turn right. Then simply follow the beach until you reach signs indicating the boundary of the Reserve.
Terms: State Reserves: Bird Island
Information on State Reserves: Bird Island