What’s At Risk

Photo: One Hundred Miles

A Congressionally Designated Wilderness Area

Over 9,800 acres of Cumberland Island National Seashore is a Congressionally designated Wilderness area, the highest level of federal land protection. Cumberland Island is the largest barrier island, over 36,000 acres, off the Georgia coast.  In 1964, the United States Congress nearly unanimously passed the National Wilderness Preservation Act. Less than 5% of the United States is under this designation, with most of it in the western US. Today, the purpose of the Wilderness Act remains the same as it was in 1964.

To maintain:

  1. An area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable
  2. Outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation
  3. Ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, or historical value

“Cumberland Island…was designated as a national seashore to protect its outstanding natural, historical, cultural, and recreational values, and to provide a continuing source of outdoor recreation for the American public.”

—Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing a Bill Concerning the Cumberland Island Wilderness Area in 1982

The Opportunity to Visit Cumberland Island National Seashore

Over 60,000 visitors a year travel to Cumberland Island National Seashore for solitude and experiences that can only take place in this natural barrier island environment. Reasons for a visit are countless, but often include:

  • Camping at Sea Camp, Stafford Beach, and three campgrounds within the Wilderness area
  • Hiking the island to take in each moment slowly
  • Fishing in salt water creeks, fresh water lakes, crabbing and shrimping in the marshes, and even fishing from the miles and miles of shoreline
  • Birding in hopes of seeing some of the 335 bird species recorded on the island, many of which are threatened or endangered
  • Scientific research is never ending on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Students and scientists alike take part in studying loggerhead sea turtles, migratory birds, native plants, and feral animals, just to name a few.

“Closures and other restrictions associated with the proposed launch facility will impact the visitor enjoyment and experience for many. In many cases this may affect once in a lifetime opportunities, months or years of planning, financial obligations, time commitments, and/or other commitments. Moreover, some closures/restrictions may occur with little notice and create further, more severe hardship.”

—National Park Service Scoping Letter

The ruins of Dungeness Mansion on the Southern end of Cumberland Island, NPS Photo

Historic Structures

The Cumberland Island National Seashore contains five historic districts

  • Two archeological districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • First African Baptist Church – established in 1893 by African American founders that were born into slavery and freed after the Civil War.
  • Dungeness Ruins – Ruins of a 35,000 square-foot mansion built for Thomas and Lucy Carnegie in 1884
  • Plum Orchard Mansion – Built in 1898, the mansion is preserved by the National Park Service as a example of Edwardian High Society at the turn of the 20thcentury
  • Ice House Museum – built around 1900, it now serves a museum of archaeology and life on the island