Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bulls Island Beach Drop to benefit Sewee Association

Take Coastal Expeditions’ Island Cat to the Secluded North End of Bulls Island
for a Day of Shelling, Swimming, Birding and Bliss

Awendaw, SC – Coastal Expeditions is sponsoring a special trip to the North End of Bulls Island with special guest Bob Raynor on July 17, 2011 to benefit the Sewee Association. This rarely offered trip brings guests directly to one of the most secluded and pristine beaches in the Lowcountry for shelling, swimming, birding, and a chance to reconnect with nature.

“One of the things I enjoy most is sharing experiences, like Bulls Island, that change the way that a person looks at their environment,” said Chris Crolley, steward of Coastal Expeditions.

The trip begins with a 40-minute naturalist-led boat tour through the saltmarsh estuary. Right now it is loggerhead nesting season so there is a good chance to see a nest or a loggerhead turtle in the estuary on the cruise to Bulls Island. Upon arriving at the North Beach of Bulls Island, Bob Raynor will lead an interpretative walk, discussing the natural and cultural history of Bulls Island and Cape Romain. Guests will be able to explore the beach at their own pace and will be able to visit a shore bird rookery. The North Beach is full of whelks, sand dollars and many other types of shells as well as Native American pottery. Boneyard Beach, one of nature’s most magnificent works of art in the Lowcountry, is a short walk away.

Cape Romain, home of Bulls Island, is one of only two Class One Wilderness Areas on the eastern seaboard and is home to a large population of nesting loggerhead sea turtles, bald eagles, bottlenose dolphins and a staggering 277 species of birds, including rare Red Knots, several species of terns, ospreys, and a plethora of other shore birds. Seven miles of Bulls Island’s beach are part of the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on the east coast and allow for unparalleled shelling, beach combing and exploring.  

The entire ticket price of $40/person will be donated to the Sewee Association. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Coastal Expeditions’ main office at 843-884-7684. Trip options are 10:30 am – 2:30 pm or 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm. Coastal Expeditions recommends bringing a picnic lunch, sunscreen and plenty of water to drink.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Impact of Rising Sea Levels on the Wildlife of Bulls Island

The changes in sea levels over the last 50 years is having a significant impact on coastal areas like Bulls Island and Cape Romain. Because the beaches are eroding so quickly, we are losing large portions of beach front each season-- and during nesting season for Loggerhead Sea Turtles, this has a detrimental impact. The refuge manager, Sarah Dawsey, and a team of volunteers relocate nests that are in danger of being flooded by changing tides.

Chris Crolley, the steward of Coastal Expeditions, has witnessed the change that has occurred on Bulls Island since he began running the ferry service to the refuge in 1994. Entire roads have washed away and areas of the island that used to be freshwater are slowly being breached by saltwater. He was interviewed for an article in last week's Post & Courier about the changes in the barrier island ecology due to rising sea levels. It's an undeniable event that Sarah Dawsey, Chris Crolley and the other stewards of Cape Romain are watching closely.

Spring Break with the Oneonta College Outdoor Club


Snapper wanted a Lowcountry experience for his group of girls from the Oneonta College Outdoor Club, and what better way than to spend the morning paddling in the estuary followed by an afternoon of fresh seafood from right out of the creek. After all, crabs fresh from the pot and oysters right off the bank might be the best way to re-fuel after a long paddle.

Zach Fischer and I instructed the girls on baiting a couple of crab pots to soak while we paddled out toward Morris Island lighthouse. Snapper and his group were on the tail end of their week long journey of paddling some of the most pristine waters in the coastal southeast, and today they would add another nine miles of paddling to their trip. And what a nine miles it was! The morning was a quiet glide, the air calm and still, the water’s surface like glass, and the silhouette of the lighthouse on the horizon growing bolder as we paddled on. A marsh hen announced high tide during lunch on Rat Island, and we watched dolphins feed in the creek as the tide fell on our way home.

Back at the hill, we pulled the crab pots to find a few big Jimmy blue crabs and three monster stone crabs. Oh the bounty of the estuary! Zach got the steamer going while I popped open a few oysters for some creek-side sushi, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen oysters disappear quicker. We had certainly worked up quite an appetite.

Several of the group filled their bellies, and even some of the non-seafood lovers shucked a few oysters and cracked some claws. It was the end of a good, long day, and I think we all felt pretty salty and smelly and exhausted, but more than anything we were hungry. Besides, sometimes it’s nice to feel salty and smelly and exhausted after a good long day in a Lowcountry estuary.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shem Creek Clean Up

We teamed up with Mount Pleasant Land Conservancy last night to clean up debris in Shem Creek. Kayaking and paddleboarding into the grassy edges, more than 40 volunteers were able to clear the creek of tires, styrofoam, bottles, cans and other trash that had collected.

Coastal Expeditions provided kayaks for 40 volunteers, a support boat to collect trash and six guides to help facilitate the event. Sea Tow Charleston, our neighbor at the Shem Creek Maritime Center, provided a second support boat and was able to bring in the bulk of the debris. Food and beer for the after party was donated by Whole Foods, Palmetto Brewing Co. and Iacofano's.

All in all, it was a great night and everyone showed up ready to work and have a good time.

Conservation efforts are at the core of the Coastal Expeditions mission statement. Working with a group of energetic and passionate volunteers was such a privilege and we're so glad to have been able to help out to keep our creek clean! We hope to see you at our next event!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

ACE Basin

A guide and client favorite is our ACE Basin tour of Cuckcold's Creek. When we kayak the water trails of the blackwater, we're able to see places that are inaccessible by foot or larger boats. And the quiet rhythms of the paddles let us get close to birds and other inhabitants of this Lowcountry Eden. Trips are offered monthly to the ACE Basin or you can plan a private expedition if you have a group of 4 or more. Call 884-7684 for more information.

This video was created by the Charleston Post & Courier:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Ultimate Classroom

The steward of Coastal Expeditions, Capt. Chris Crolley, often asks visiting educators, "Is your classroom as big as your students' imaginations?".Since the development of the Island Quest program 14 years ago, Chris and our other incredible naturalist educators like Kristina Wheeler and Ian Sanchez have seen how getting students into a place like Cape Romain can change the way a student sees the world. And that's why we continue to do what we do.

Serving students and groups, the Island Quest field study program is a unique opportunity to explore Bulls Island and the surrounding Class One Wilderness Area of Cape Romain with trained naturalists.

If you are an educator and want to know more about our Island Quest program, please contact our office. We offer complimentary trips to educators several times each year so we can show you first hand what your students will experience when the set out into Cape Romain. It's an exploration of maritime forests and pristine beaches that will stay with your students for a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Speechless about Boneyard Beach...

Sometimes we get letters from people that have explored with us and it makes our day. This is why we do what we do. Thanks for writing, Danielle!

I'm in the middle of a roadtrip from South Carolina to Massachusetts, stopping at the east coast wildlife refuges along the way. Yesterday, I went out to Bull's Island with Captain Wil and I just wanted to say how amazing it was! Wil was incredibly knowledgeable and really charming. He taught us so much on the way out and on the way back. We saw dolphins (and many other animals) on the way there; I've never seen a dolphin! Then there was the island itself, which completely blew me away. I saw 25 or so alligators, a snake, countless birds and I'm speechless about Boneyard Beach. The whole thing was so great I could go home without seeing another refuge and it will still have been worth it.

Thank you to Wil and all of you guys for the trip! I hope I can make it back down here sometime to do it all over again.

All my best,

Danielle S.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Explore (v)-to travel over new territory for adventure or discovery.

The idea of new territory and the adventure of something different brings me to the outdoors time and again. While scouting a trip today on the Ashley River, Zach Fisher and I set our eyes on a piece of winding creek that we had each never seen before. This narrow piece of water that carved through the estuary made the fauna along the bank seem larger than ever. As we rounded the corner and jumped up our first Great Blue Heron of the day it was easy to believe the beautiful bird's wings stretched far beyond six feet.

This was by no means the first time I had seen a Great Blue Heron, however all of a sudden it seemed just a little bit different. The change was where I was paddling. Each new sight brought great fun. We paddled up to a drawbridge for the railroad tracks that created some neat eddies and I decided to film a sweep roll under the bridge.
With so many beautiful rivers and freshwater swamps there is such a great opportunity in South Carolina to change your scenery an almost infinite number of times.

Coastal Expeditions is blessed with four on water locations along the coast of South Carolina, however our adventures stretch far beyond there. At Coastal one of our favorite things to do is enjoy the gift that is the Francis Marion National Forest. Kayaking on blackwater through Bald Cypress and Tupelo trees for the first time is surreal.

In the following months Coastal Expeditions will be putting on trips that change the scenery. In March join Heidi Champion and I on a tour from our Folly Creek location under the light of a full moon, and then in April discover the treasure of blackwater paddling along the Wambaw.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bulls Island Species List: 18 Feb 2011

(Click on image to enlarge)

Experiencing Bulls Island

At 5000 acres, Bulls Island is the largest island within Cape Romain NWR and is the only island within Cape Romain with large interior freshwater impoundments and a well-developed maritime forest. Having this federally-protected wildlife refuge within this pristine ecosystem allows for tremendous species diversity and population densities.
Last week as part of the annual guide training for our naturalists at Coastal Expeditions, we explored Bulls Island and categorized flora and fauna that we were seeing along the way. While it's not a complete list (we left off all plants, insects and many of the shells and animals from our beach exploration), it's an impressive list of 76 species. Seeing this reminded me of how important it is for us to properly steward Bulls Island and all of Cape Romain so that it can continue to be a haven for sensitive species like wood storks, loggerhead sea turtles and American oystercatchers.

Of the 76 total species, we categorized 63 different birds. One of those species, the American oystercatcher, is considered a bio-indicator species. When you have a thriving population of American oystercatchers it indicates that you have a thriving oyster population. And since oysters need clean water to establish and colonize, oysters are a way to tell if the estuary is free of pollutants.
We're happy to say that Cape Romain is home to the largest population of American oystercatchers in the world and the majority of them overwinter in these waters.

During our island exploration, we counted 37 alligators on Alligator Alley taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures. We identified the scat of bobcat, otter and white-tail deer. The shoreline was covered with the egg casings of whelks and moon snails. It wasn't hard to imagine why Bulls Island and surrounding Cape Romain has been called the "Galapagos of the Eastern seaboard".

This wilderness area needs sustained stewardship and there are several ways to support Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. One is to visit Bulls Island; A portion of the fee for ferry service to Bulls Island is appropriated back to the refuge for conservation, land and water management, sea turtle protection and other wildlife projects. And with 16 miles of hiking trails, over seven miles of undeveloped shoreline and the magnificent Boneyard Beach, Bulls Island is yours for exploration.
Another way is to become a volunteer with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, particularly during sea turtle nesting season. And if you don't have the time to visit often or have a group or business that would like to help, adopt a sea turtle nest through

Sunrise on Bulls Island


Friday, February 11, 2011

Getting the whole picture


Last winter, the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) filmed guides Chris Crolley and Ian Sanchez on Shem Creek as part of their campaign to highlight the best that Charleston has to offer.

Visit Charleston, SC
On the Water in Charleston
Experience Charleston fully by kayaking the Lowcountry waterways

It's beautiful on the water