Guale Preserve is a wilderness oasis in the heart of the island. Easily accessible from the bike path along Lawrence Road, this property boasts almost two miles of trails for passive recreation. These hiking trails guide you through maritime forest, old dune ridges with scrub live oaks, and pond pine stands, which are a unique pine tree only found on older parts of barrier islands.
William Bartram, one of the early naturalists, is widely recognized for his travels though America’s south from 1773-1777. His writings regarding his time spent on St. Simons Island have inspired the interpretive signs found throughout the Preserve. These signs provide information about the various habitats inside the Preserve, share quotes from William Bartram, and display incredible artwork by Philip Juras.
Guale Preserve offers many recreational and educational experiences. While visiting the Preserve you can:
For generations Musgrove has been accessible to the public only once per year during the Tour of Homes, when its beautiful tree-lined driveway transforms into a gateway to a world of pristine maritime forest and well-appointed cottages. Many vacationers visit St. Simons every year without even noticing this verdant and peaceful property.
Instead of slating the land for development, the previous owners of the property, the Brenn Foundation approached the St. Simons Land Trust with the hope to preserve, enhance, and showcase this magnificent local treasure. The Foundation ultimately sold 258 acres of their property to the St. Simons Land Trust.
In May 2016, the Land Trust acquired the first of three phases, a 58-acre tract at the north boundary of the property. Read the announcement here. In February 2017, the Land Trust acquired the second phase, a 90-acre tract. Read the announcement here. In August of 2018, the Land Trust acquired the third and final phase, a 110-acre tract at the south boundary of the property. Read the announcement here.
After the final phase of the Musgrove acquisition was completed, part of the agreement with the Brenn Foundation was that the Land Trust rename the 258 acres we own, while the foundation retains “Musgrove” for its purposes.
This lush wilderness area is now called Guale Preserve, a name with deep historic significance. For nearly 5,000 years, Native Americans lived on Georgia’s barrier islands, evidence of which has been uncovered throughout the Golden Isles. One of those tribes was the Guale (pronounced “Wallie”) Indians, a complicated society that populated land from Georgia’s Lower Satilla River to the North Edisto River in South Carolina. Here the tribe lived in well-planned settlements that included a “town center” or “plaza” surrounded by the leaders’ home.
The Guale took advantage of this region’s bounty of edible plants, game, and seafood during the 16th and 17th centuries. Oysters were a particularly important staple of the diet, resulting in shell middens that have dramatically impacted plant and animal habitats in St. Simons’ maritime forests.
The Land Trust’s vision for Guale Preserve features a small waterfront access area nestled within a 258-acre wilderness area crisscrossed by hiking and biking trails. It will connect to one of the island’s thoroughfares – Lawrence Road – to accommodate visitors and facilitate an intimate connection with nature. This preserve will attract area residents and regional vacationers looking for a safe, fun, and beautiful outdoor experience near the heart of the island.
The land surrounding the waterfront area will remain a pristine natural habitat, protected by a conservation easement held by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This piece of land has special resonance among conservationists for its threatened habitat that supports numerous rare plant and animal species, plays a key role in regional wilderness corridors, and provides important natural defenses against coastal storms.
Preserving this land near the heart of the island has provided the region with a rare asset: a firmly protected wilderness area that bookends a broader conservation zone and has the capacity to engage everyday passersby and tourists alike. Inspiring a close connection with Guale Preserve’s majestic natural features will foster a strong conservation ethic in generations of visitors.
The recreational opportunities and ecological value of Guale Preserve make it one of the most important and exciting projects on Georgia’s coast today. Please follow these links to view renderings of the planned fishing platform, the hiking and biking trails, and our answers to FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the Guale Preserve/Musgrove acquisition.