With the exception of approximately 250 acres on Cockspur Island and 200 acres on McQueens Island, the 5,623 acre Monument consists of tidal marshes and mud flats that are subject to six to ten foot tides twice a day. Before human intervention, this area was primarily salt marsh.
The marsh and uplands have a variety of animal life characteristic of southern barrier islands including white-tailed deer, alligators, and raccoons as well as birds. Vegetation includes Spanish moss draped from yaupon holly bushes and cabbage palms, various wetland grasses, and a variety of temperate hardwood and pine trees characteristic of coastal maritime forest. During the civil war period, the vegetation was removed to enhance visibility. When the fort was abandoned in the late eighteen hundreds, a large portion of central Cockspur Island reverted to type.
If lucky you may catch a glimpse of one of the 11 Protected Species that have been identified at the Monument. These are: American oystercatcher, bald eagle, gull-billed tern, least tern, loggerhead sea turtle, manatee, peregrine falcon, piping plover, swallow-tailed kite, Wilson’s plover and woodstork.
Other than seeing the fort, there is a quarter-mile, self-guiding nature trail. Bicycles are allowed on trails, except those leading to the Fort. There is an earthen dike circuit (two miles). Birding and deer watching is popular as is viewing the Savannah River shipping traffic (when it isn't as foggy as this). Hiking, biking, and picnicking in designated areas is encouraged. Boating and fishing is allowed in the Savannah River, Lazaretto Creek, and Oyster Creek.
Permits for recreational, non-commercial shellfish harvesting in park waters are available free of charge at the Visitor Center during normal operating hours.
This historic sign (with Georgia 1776 at the top) says
THE WAVING GIRL
For 44 years, Florence Martus (1868-1943) lived on nearby Elba Island with her brother the lighthouse keeper, and no ship arrived for Savannah or departed from 1887 to 1931 without her waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. Throughout the years, the vessels in return watched for and saluted this quiet little woman. Few people ever met her yet she became the source of romantic legends when the story of her faithful greetings was told in ports all over the world. After her retirement the Propeller Club of Savannah, in honor of her seventieth birthday, sponsored a celebration on Cockspur Island. A Liberty ship, built in Savannah in 1943, was named for her.
I do not know why this sign is at Fort Pulaski, because the statue is in Savannah, and the waving didn't take place here either.
There are numerous long and short range canons found at the Fort. The canons seem to be scattered almost haphazardly around the courtyard, but they tell an important part of the story. Fort Pulaski was designed to guard the mouth of the Savannah river, but it was never meant to protect against inland invasion. After Fort Sumter was fired upon, the Fort was used to fight a war for which it wasn't designed. Yet another symbol that the unthinkable had happened.
These are the holes made by the rifle canon fire from Tybee Island. The continuous bombardment lasted 30 hours. The Confederate soldiers tried to patch the holes with sandbage and other items. But the canon fire hit the gunpowder storage room and ignited a fire. At that point, the Confederates were finally forced to surrender.
You'll see evidence of canon fire on all sides, but the breached wall has the most scars. The fort was designed to protect against invasion from the sea and the walls facing that direction were fairly heavily guarded. No one contemplated an invasion by land. Then again, no one contemplated that the nation would be at war with itself.
In the distance, you can see the square brick structures called cisterns. These were built during the construction of the Fort to help with drainage. There were other buildings on this field, in the area now called the construction village. But the wooden structures which housed laborers were destroyed by 19th century hurricanes. Today, only the brick structures remain.