Calibogue Sound is a Force of Nature

Calibogue Sound

Storm clouds over Calibogue Sound. Photo: Marianne Ballantine

THE BLUE BOUNDARY separating Hilton Head Island from the mainland is a wide, sweeping waterway named Calibogue Sound. The sound is melded from the confluence of Mackay Creek, May River, Cooper River, Broad Creek, and six tributaries on Hilton Head Island. Deep and 13 miles long, this waterway curves like the body of a dolphin and connects the Atlantic Ocean with Port Royal Sound. It is a place of history and natural wonders, beckoning discovery.
The name Calibogue (pronounced kal i-bow-gee) is derived from a southern Creek Indian word meaning “deep spring.” The central channel, hugging the western flank of Hilton Head lsland’s Spanish Wells and Sea Pines communities, is nearly 70 feet deep. Scientists have measured the bottom of this channel and discovered cavernous rock cliffs carved by strong seabed currents. The diversity of water flow and depth mixes sediments and nutrients in the water. This produces good habitat for marine life.

Calibogue Sound is Hilton Head Island’s most ancient natural resource. From bank to bank, and at every twist and turn, you can view a diversity of wildlife.
• Headwaters of the Sound wrap around Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, home for bald eagle, osprey, vast flocks of wading birds, and a safe home for migratory shorebirds.
• Salt marshes lining the Sound are acre-for-acre the most productive wildlife communities on the Island. These wetlands have it all: food, shelter and water for species ranging from oysters to great blue herons.
• Sandbars and shell banks are vital habitat for American oystercatcher, black skimmers, gulls, terns, sandpipers, and wading birds.
• Bottlenose dolphins are plentiful in Calibogue Sound. Although dolphins were thought to be a migratory species, researchers have learned that in Calibogue Sound, about 200 dolphins remain year-round. The fishing is that good!

• Ecotours are guided tours in small boats or sea kayaks (my favorite). Trained naturalists will lead you to prime wildlife viewing and interpret the history of Hilton Head Island, nearby Daufuskie Island, and the Bluffton area.
• Dolphin Watching cruises are available by kayak, small boat or large cruisers. Remember: feeding dolphins is illegal.
• Inshore fishing charters are offered from the public docks and marinas on the Island. Depending on the time of year, quarry includes red drum, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, whiting, and more.
• Sailing is offered through charters at local marinas. You will always remember a sunset cruise on the golden water of Calibogue Sound.