Birds of Seabrook Island



  Kiawah River

Species Acct.
NW Warblers


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Seabrook island
Satellite Image

Aerial Photos
Habitat Change
Inlet Reloccation 2015

Coastal Islands


   The Atlantic Coast is fringed by a number of islands. Sea islands are remnants of the mainland surrounded by water. Barrier Islands are dynamic bars of moving sand - dependent on contining sources of availabe sediment, ocean currents, tides, and ocean level.
    South (west/below) Charleston, SC there are two sea islands - James Island and Johns Island. James Island is fringed by two barrier islands - Morris Island (now largely eroded) and Folly Beach. These islands are separated by a series of estuaries including Lighthouse Creek. Johns Island is also bounded by two barrier islands - Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island. These islands are separated by the Kiawah River. James Island is separated from the city by Wapoo Creek, the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor, formed by the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers - the "origin of the Atlantic Ocean" according to long-time Charlestinians. James and Johns Island are separated by the Stono River. Johns Island is separated from Edisto Island and the biodiverse ACE (Ashepoo - Combahee - Edisto) basin by the North Edisto River. The Inland Waterway and Wapoo Creek separate these sea islands from the mainland.


Seabrook Island


   Seabrook Island is separated from Johns Island (actually Wadmalaw Island - a portion of Johns Island) by Bohicket Creek. Rockville, a busy shrimping center and residential town, is just across the creek from Bohicket Marina. The Kiawah River, a tidal estuary draining large areas of coastal salt marsh, and The Haulover, a short stretch of marsh connecting the Kiawah River and Bohicket Creek, separate Seabrook Island from Kiawah Island.
   British first arrived on the island in 1666. The proprietary government "purchased" the island from the Stono Indians in 1864. The island was used to stage British and Hessian troops during the revolution. William Seabrook, an Edisto plantation owner, purchased the island in 1816. It was used to grow sea island cotton. William Gregg bought the island during the Civil War and, by the turn of the century, it has become a spot for hunting, fishing, and recreation. In 1939, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina rented land for a summer camp for underprivileged children. In 1951, 4,408 acres were given to the church. Retaining a large area in the northwest end of the island (bounded by the Edisto and Privateer Crek), the church sold 1,100 acres to the original developer of the community. The island became incorporated in 1988 as the town of Seabrook Island. Faced with the likelihood of massive losses with Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the developer declared bankruptcy and the future of the resort and its amenities was is doubt. With considerable effort, residents managed to weather early problems. To ensure the future privacy of residents and proper stewardship of amenities (2 golf courses, tennis courts, an Equestrian Center, and a club house with pools), the majority of owners approved a requirement that all future owners join the Club of Seabrook Island. With Island One, the club house was replaced and all amenities were upgraded and the Lake House, a community center on Palmetto Lake. was built. The lake and Lake House are available to all owners, not just club members.
  As Seabrook was being developed, its beach was being severely eroded. The longshore current transports sand along the coast from north to south. This flow was elongating the spit off the south tip of Kiawah Island and outflow from the river was eroding Seabrook - during development, a sea wall was constructed from the Beach Club on the Edisto River, around the Club and then east from Renken's Point. The beach and ocean were originally visible from the T-box of the 14th green on the Ocean Winds Golf Course. With considerable planning, the community financed the relocation of the inlet from the Kiawah River across the spit to form a more direct path for tidal flow to and from the ocean. This resulted in considerable accretion of sand along the sea wall from Renken's Point east to the river and developed a fairly extensive scrub-shrub marine environment with myrtles, pines, and hollies.


North Beach Village from the western leg of the Kiawah River. Taken before the second inlet relocation in 1996. This portion of the estuary was eroding into marsh, dunes, and the shrub-scrub community that developed after the 1986 relocation. Kiawah Island is to the right.


Satellite Image - 2005




Click here or on the image for view of the entire island.

   This small section of the larger map shows the Kiawah River and its inlet with the Atlantic (aerial photo above). The old river bed has been closed and dunes encompass a tidal lagoon incorporating remnants of the former river outlet. Capn' Sam's Creek connects to the Kiawah River to the right and North Beach Village is shown to the left. The Secondary Dunes and Dike were constructed during the Inlet Relocation in 1996 (the original inlet was first relocated in 1986).
   In 2007, the primary dunes were eroded and the Lagoon became tidal with a connection to the ocean (see below).
   In the larger map, features on the ocean are labeled in black. The names of villas and other developments are given in white. The fairways of the two golf courses (Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds) are numbered in red. Green lines and numbers identify boardwalks (now renumbered) and various beach access points. Bodies of water are named in yellow and POA and Club facilities in orange.
   Bohicket Marina and Freshfields Village are to the east of this satellite image.
   For more information go to Google Maps and enter the Johns Island Zip (29455). Navigate to the part of Seabrook you wish to see in detail, select SATELLITE from the menu at the top. Google images are copyrighted in 2015 but predate the latest relocation of the inlet.. They give excellent detail


Aerial Photos - June 2007

  North Beach Kiawah River Lagoon
  Middle Beach to North Beach and Kiawah Island. Renken's Point is to the left center. The land between the houses and the beach has accrued since 1954 and is now part of the Beach Trust. The Kiawah River is in the center of the image.
A view of the Kiawah River inlet cut in 1996 from over the ocean. Capn' Sam's Creek drains the marsh to the left center into the River. The old river bed is blocked to the left by a second line of dues that is becoming increasingly
North Beach, looking west and south. The lagoon is to the left of the second dune line and incorporates the outer limb of the older river bed. The remains of the former Kiawah River, now largely silted in, is seen to the right at high tide. The land between the "beach front" houses and the ocean is now covered in low maritime scrub forest (myrtles, yaupons, groundsel) or remains marshy (to the right). This is prime habitat for Painted Buntings.
  Lagoon Left. North Beach from the island, looking south. The first line of dunes was breeched in early June and the lagoon is a now a tidal basin connected to the ocean. The second line of dunes is breeched with an overflow from the salt marsh behind the dunes but this is not yet a main channel. If it were to connect with the old river bed, it could quickly become a new channel relocating the Kiawah River much closer to the beach.

Habitat Changes

     As the inlet moved south (west) since its relocation in 1996, the primary dunes along North Beach became lower and the area between the beach and the lagoon was increasingly subject to overwash at high tides. As a result, Least Terns stopped nesting in this area in 2006. This was also the last year for an oystercatcher nest in that area. Without breeding Least Terns, Black Terns are less likely in the fall. Wilson's Plovers and Willets still breed along the second dune line and the cord grass patches have been colonized by Clapper Rails. The mud flats should continue to attract numerous migrant shorebirds.
   Barrier Islands are dynamic structures that change rapidly. These changes are to be expected and birds will adapt rapidly. Enjoy our changing island!

Inlet Relocation - 2015

  The Cut    
  Cut Spit Ocean
  Looking west. The new channel is seen crossing the spit in the foreground. The Kiawah River (estuary) crosses the image and Cap's Sams"s Creek joins the estuary to the left. Seabrook Island lies beyond the estuary. Looking west toward the barrier island. The new cut crosses the tip of the spit and the Kiawah River separates the spit from Seabrook to the rear. Looking south across the Kiawah River spit. The new cut is in thecenter and the exiting esstuary to the right. North Beach is on the right.
  The Dike    
  Dike Dike Dike
    Looking south. North Beach is on the right, the spit on the left. The river is now closed by the new dike. The existing ebb tidal delta is on the left. Looking west - maritime shrub-scrub habitat on Seabrook. Trees on the left delimit Ocean Point. The old estuary crosses roughly left to right. Looking down on the dike as more sand is added. The Kiawah River is bridged in the middle.
    Banner - Kiawah River and North Beach.