Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve

Georgia’s Sapelo Island reserve encompasses more than 6,000 acres, including the Duplin River and associated tidal marshes, nearby hammocks (small islands), and upland maritime forest along the southern and western sides of the island. Protected by state law since the early 1970’s, the marshes around Sapelo support the full diversity of native plant and animal species found along the Georgia coast. Loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on Sapelo’s Atlantic beaches, and northern right whales calf offshore.

The world-renowned University of Georgia Marine Institute sits within the reserve, and the famous Hog Hammock Gullah-Geechee community lies just to the east. The island’s cultural history dates back more than 4,500 years, based on archeological studies of the Native American “Shell Ring” at the north end of the island. Cultural icons include the famous Reynolds Mansion and Sapelo Lighthouse, both of which are found within the reserve’s boundaries.

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Vital Stats

The Sapelo Island reserve participates in the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP), which collects, analyzes, and makes available weather, water quality, and nutrient data from all National Estuarine Research Reserves. Learn more


Learn about the local crab, shrimp, and fishing industry while enjoying a “low country boil” at Crab and Shrimp Day, take a birding adventure tour, or find out how to build your own rain barrel at the Visitor’s Center. There are many ways to get involved at the Sapelo Island reserve.


Helping to measure the changing slope of Nannygoat beach, working on the boardwalk at the beach pavilion, or participating in nature trail cleanup—there are many ways to enjoy the Sapelo Island reserve.

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Become a Friend

The Friends of Sapelo is a volunteer organization dedicated to the natural, cultural, and historical resources of Sapelo Island. Friends support the research, education, and outreach mission of the reserve.

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Did you know?

Sapelo Island is home to the last intact Gullah Geechee community.


Doug Samson
Reserve Manager
Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve
PO Box 15, Sapelo Island, GA 31327
T: 912-485-2251