Georgia’s coastal marshlands encompass approximately 378,000 acres in a four to six mile band behind the barrier islands. Thriving in the waters of the estuaries, these marshes have been identified as one of the most extensive and productive marshland systems in the United States.
These tidally inundated grassy wetlands crossed and drained by a series of increasingly smaller tidal creeks were created as a result of melting glaciers during the ice ages. The origin of Georgia’s marshlands can be traced back to the Holocene melting of the continental glaciers. One theory suggests that sediment, sand, and soil brought down by the rivers, blown by the wind, and washed ashore by the waves gradually built up into ridges and dunes on the landward side of the shoreline. Water from the melting glaciers resulted in rising sea levels which flooded the coast and mainland, and the ridges were given prominence as barrier islands. Ocean waters behind these islands formed lagoons, and later the marshlands.
Productive almost beyond comprehension, this salt marsh grass is responsible for the continuation and survival of the intricate balance of nature within the estrarine ecology. Producing nearly twenty tons to the acre, it is four times more productive than the most carefully cultivated corn. Georgia’s salt marshes produce more food energy than any estuarine zone on the eastern Seaboard.