St. Catherine’s Island
St. Catherine’s Island is an undeveloped semi-tropical barrier island 35 miles South of Savannah, Ga. It includes 7,000 acres of high land, 7,000 acres of salt marsh, and a wide variety of forest habitats. The island is ten miles long by two miles wide. One small area is devoted to buildings that support the island programs, including offices, maintenance facilities, visitor housing (cabins resembling rather quaint motel rooms), laboratories, and a dining facility. The rest of the island is accessible by single lane sand roads. The island Superintendent is the only permanent resident. Eight to ten staff commute to the island each day by boat. Electrical power is supplied by an underwater cable from the mainland, and telephones are connected by microwave.
The island has been occupied (and disturbed) by human beings for at least 6,000 years. It has been an archaic and then Quale (Wally) Indian settlement, a colonial cotton and rice plantation, and a cattle ranch. The plantation house is still used for meetings, and the guest cabins are restorations and replicas of the slave quarters. A major Spanish mission was located on the island from 1590 to 1680. Some of the island forest is the secondary succession of former fields while other parts of the island are old growth. Until paper mills were built on the nearby mainland, the island was artesian, but now wildlife is supported by artificial ponds and wells during the dry parts of the year.
The island is the property of the St. Catherine’s Island Foundation, which is funded by the Edward J. Noble Foundation. Edward Noble was the last private owner of the island.
An aerial photograph and three maps are available. The first is a JPEG road map. The area generally occupied by the lemurs lies between Yankee Bridge Road, North Beach Road, and North Pasture in the northern part of the island. The second map is in GPS Trackmaker, an easily used mapping program available in its simplest form free on-line, and in its Professional version for less than $100. GPS trackmaker takes down-loads from simple hand-held GPS units and will do such tasks as computing home ranges and measuring distances. The third map is a GIS shape file of the roads on the island, which can serve as a base layer for more complex data management.