Cumberland Island stretches eighteen miles north and south and ranges from three fourths to two and a half miles wide. Expansive salt marshes and tidal estuaries are protected on the island’s west side, and, from the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Dense oak and pine forests, fresh water sloughs, and long sand dune ridges provide for plant and animal communities of great diversity. Over half of Cumberland is protected wilderness; many miles of trails provide excellent access.
Buried in the island’s soil are the relics of at least four thousand years of human history. The rich maritime ecology provided ample food: Aboriginal shell mounds line the island’s marsh side, testifying to the natural abundance. Spanish mission churches, British military outposts, African slave villages and antebellum plantation homes have almost completely disappeared. Over the past century the Carnegies allowed the fields that once grew cotton, indigo, rice, citrus and corn to return to forests of oak and pine.
Beneath this beautiful canopy, one can feel the presence of peoples and struggles past. While man’s imprint on the island has changed, the island’s natural beauty and abundance must have affected both the Native population and the Europeans alike.