One of Hunting Island’s hidden treasures is the Marsh Walk on the western side of the island. Here you can take a boardwalk to cross pluff mud (also spelled plough mud), the nutrient-rich, slippery mud of the Lowcountry’s tidal saltmarshes. At low tide, you’ll see periwinkle snails clinging to the grasses and fiddler crabs scuttling out of the sun. You’ll smell the “bouquet” of pluff mud (a blend of saltwater, chlorophyll, and decaying plants and animals) and the pungent scent of juniper.
Dodge the webs made by three-inch spiders along the trail. Hear the harsh rattling cry of a marsh hen. Many shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl find shelter in the marshes on migration and during the winter. More permanent dwellers include snowy egrets, blue herons, seaside sparrows, and clapper rails.
The marshes breathe as the tides ebb and flow through them, and salinity varies depending on the height of the tide and rainfall. They are some of the most productive breeding grounds in the world. The plant tissue (mainly spartina, but also black needlerush and salt meadow cordgrass) is created from solar energy. When the plants die, their nutrients are released into the water, and they feed 95% of the fish, shrimp, and shellfish harvested in the seas nearby.
Before we fully understood the importance of the salt marsh food web, over half of the US’s original marshes were “reclaimed” to create land for homes, industry, and agriculture. In addition, ditching and diking for mosquito control further destroyed the marshes. Now salt marshes are protected from any type of alteration.
We need only two things to provide the services and projects you see described on this website: your participation and your tax-deductible membership fees. For one $40 membership contribution, you and your family can join Friends of Hunting Island and have unlimited access to the park for one year. All members are encouraged to participate in any of our on-going projects. If you do not wish to join, but want to donate to our efforts, click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of Hunting Island.