Take the easygoing salt marsh boardwalk at Coastal Discovery Museum to learn about one of the most fertile environments on the planet. Witness first hand the circle of life taking place every day with a Swiss clock precision.
At high tide Jarvis Creek water from the Atlantic Ocean and Calibogue Sound rises and overflows into the salt marsh. At low tides the sediment sets in creek beds and grasses providing rich nourishment for a diversity of animals and plants.
Fun things to know, kids education on the go!
• All about tides – Gravity from the moon and sun pull the earth waters changing the sea level. High tides form when the moon passes by, and consequently, low tides occur in locations not aligned with the moon. High and low tides occur daily about every 6 hours.
• The Birds are calling! Press the button to hear the salt marsh calling. There is the Osprey, Laughing Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Boat-tailed Grackle, Clapper Rail, Long-billed Marsh Wren and the Great Blue Heron.
• The water looks brown due to its mixture of soil, plankton, algae, and decayed plants and animals. The mud in the marsh is composed of fine clay and silt that erode form high ground.
• Wildlife viewing tip! At high tide watch for ospreys and belted kingfisher as they hunt for fish. At low tide large birds like the blue heron come out looking for small fish, crabs, shrimp and snails. At night is the raccoons and river otters’ time to hunt.
• Who left these tracks a deer, a raccoon, a river otter or a bird? Introduce kids to the animals of the marshes through a fun guessing game.
Gotta Love These!
• A loner, Diamond Terrapin – The northern Diamond Terrapin turtle is the only reptile inhabiting this salt marsh. Alligators and snakes cannot survive for long in the salt water that causes them to dehydrate.
• Feeling Itchy? Thank the ladies no-see-ums, tiny yet fierce biting flies that swarm the area looking for a hearty meal to stimulate their egg production.
• Banana Spider – This Golden Silk spider makes one of the longest and sturdiest webs in the world. Spanning several feet they are capable of catching small animals like hummingbirds and bats! The silk is as strong and Kevlar! Luckily their venom is harmless to humans and the spiders rarely bite.
• Cicada “Rock and Roll” – Adult males are known for their loud “beat the drum” songs during summer. Have fun hunting for the nymphs’ skin shed when they become adults.
• Dragonfly “T-Rex” - The raptors of the insect world are quick agile flyers and aggressive predators that mostly feed on gnats and mosquitoes.
Other notables: Chiggers, Hercules Beetle, Palmetto Bug, Love Bugs, Fire Ants.
Armored Crawling Creatures
• Fiddler Crab, So You Think You Can Dance? – Fiddler crabs seal their burrows at high tides to avoid flooding. Males use their large claw to engage in intricate dancing performances to attract females.
• Atlantic Blue Crab, The Warrior – Known for their aggressive stance, the blue crabs use their sharply pointed and thick armor and strong claws to fight anyone who dares disturb them.
• Acorn Barnacle – Easily seen at low tides attached to pilings under the boardwalk. The barnacle lives in a flexible shell that shuts at any sign of danger. It extends its feather like feet to capture plankton and organic matter.
• Eastern Oysters - An architectural bedrock and widespread seafood delicacy. Drum and sheepshead fish use their strong jaws to break the oysters’ armor and carnivorous drill snails bore their way through the shell.
• Eastern Mud Snail are tiny algae scavengers. As many as 10 million can live on one acre of marsh!
More free family attractions in and around the Horn…
• Butterflies, Butterflies - Tour the museum newest outdoor exhibit, the Karen Wertheimer Butterfly Enclosure. It’s free ($10 guided tours are available Mondays and Wednesday), fun and truly colorful!
• Indoor History, Art and Nature Bonanza - Coastal Discovery Museum offers a variety of videos, photos, artifacts and interactive exhibits about life on the Sea Islands from prehistoric times to date.
• Kids love reading with Tiger and Pooh at the Public Library
• Enjoy a fun-packed day at the Sea Pines Plantation (requires $5 all day pass per car, once inside most attractions are free).
Children can take over the playground, greet baby gators at the Nature Center, climb the eye candy Harbour Town Lighthouse (free for kids under 5, $4 otherwise), visit the national treasure 4,000 years old Indian Shell Ring, chase a ghost at the Baynard Ruins or just relax inside beautiful Forest Preserve.
Have fun under the sun in Hilton Head!
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Filed Under: Coastal Discovery Museum, Free Things to Do, Fun Carolina Outdoor Recreation, Hilton Head, Hilton Head - Savannah, Walking and Jogging
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