Ossabaw Island. Ossabaw’s 25,056-acre island is in the Atlantic about twenty miles south of Savannah. Twice the size of Bermuda and the third largest on the Georgia coast — after Cumberland and St. Simons – it is the state’s first heritage nature preserve, managed for the citizens of Georgia by the state’s Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.
Ossabaw Island boasts the oldest avenue of oaks in continuous use in America.
“Indeed, Ossabaw’s beguiling ability to maintain both timelessness and relevance— exemplified by being able to use your cellphone amidst 100-year-old oaks and pigs left by conquistadors — is part of what makes it so magical,” writes Jim Morekis, Keepin it real, ConnectSavannah.com.
From Native Americans to artists and heirs, humans have inhabited the island for 4,000 years. Spanish missionaries, cotton planters, slaves, Civil War soldiers, freedmen, millionaires, and artists called Ossabaw home. Miniature donkeys and the famed Ossabaw Pigs – descendants of Iberian swine that were left by 16th-century Spaniards on Ossabaw Island off the Georgia coast – are sought out by Mount Vernon estate and Williamburg,Virginia for their eighteenth-century historical look, and as the perfect pork “that feeds on their favorite food, la bellota, the acorn,” writer Peter Kaminsky, On the Trail of Fine Ham: First, Plant an Acorn. “Ibérico hogs arrived in America with the second voyage of Columbus.”
It was in Ossabaw Sound during the last year of the American Civil War that John Thomas Scharf, “an officer of the late Confederate States Navy”, reports “127 Confederate sailors in seven small boats” successfully capture the U.S.S. Waterwitch in Ossabaaw, the “most spirited incident of the last year of the war”. [Source: “History of the Confederate States navy from its organization to the Surrender of its last vessel.”]
Popular to photographers, archeologists and artists, the island is made accessible through the State of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, and The Ossabaw Island Foundation, established in 1994. In addition to its preservation efforts on the island, the Foundation conducts mid-week trips for up to six people on selected dates, a rare opportunity to spend a day on the protect island. The full-day tour includes travel by pontoon boat, buckboard and on foot, and limits island goers primarily to educational purposes. Bird rookeries, 19th century slave cabins, and the undeveloped island are highlights.
October and November (annually), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducts controlled hunting for Ossabaw Hogs, deer, alligator, on various reserves including Cumberland Island, Harris Neck, Ossabaw Island, Sapelo Island, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and Wassaw Island. For more information.