The Billy Cullens Memorial Nature Trail and Observation Towers give birdwatchers and other outdoor enthusiasts an excellent opportunity to observe wetland-dependent wildlife in the managed impoundments of the Butler Island Refuge unit of the Altamaha Waterfowl Managment Area.
Trail and Towers - The nature trail consistes of two parts, a north loop and a south loop. The loops may be walked as one long unit, or two separate trails. The trails follow the dikes separating the different managed wetlands on the refuge. The two obersvation towers provide excellent views of the managed wetlands. The northern tower is easily accessed via a short walk from the parking area on the east side of Highway 17, just south of Darien River. The newer, southern tower is accessible only by walking the south loop of the nature trail.
Informational Signs - There are seven informational signs scattered along the nature trail that provide information on waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, wetlands, songbirds and salt marshes. The kiosks at the north tower provide information on the management of the area and conservation efforts along the Altamaha River. Two bronze plaques, located at the North Tower, recognize Billy Cullens for his conservation involvement, and the Sea Island Company for their financial support of wetland conservation along the Altamaha River.
In Memorium - The trail and towers were named in honor of the late Billy Cullens, an avid sportsman and conservationist who took a keen interest in the waterfowl management activiites that occured on the Altamaha WMA.
Managing Butler Island - The four managed impoundments of the Butler Island Reguve provide habitat for wintering waterfowl, migrating shorebirds and teal, resident wading birds and many other speciies of wetland dependent wildlife. By varying the water depth and timing of flooding in each of the impoundments, the specific habitat needs of various wetland bird groups can be met.
Waterfowl - Impoundments managed for wintering waterfowl are dry during the spring and summer so that vegetation such as smartweeks, wild millet and panic grass can grow and produce seed. The impoundments are mowed in the fall and flooded shallowly during the late fall and winter (Nov-Feb) to make the seeds accessible to the feeding ducks.
Shorebirds and Teal - Water depth in the impoundments managed for shorebirds and teal is shallower than for other ducks, and the impoundments are flooded a little earlier and drained a little later (Sept-May) to match the timing of the teal and shirebird migration.
Wading Birds & Wood Ducks - Resident wading birds and breeding wood ducks need water all year long. Impoundments managed for these species are flooded throughout the year, and are a little deeper than areas managed only for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Funding for the Butler Island Refuge MARSH Project provided by: Georgia DNR/WIldlife Resources Division, Weekend for Wildlife, Georgia Ducks Unlimited.
For more information, call: Georgia Department of Natural Resources 912-262-3173