Little Cumberland Island | Saint Marys, Georgia

Little Cumberland Island
Little Cumberland Island GA
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View a map showing all of Georgia’s major barrier islands.

Little Cumberland is a typical Holocene island composed of a series of fantail-shaped beach ridges. It is 2.4 miles long with an area of 1,410 acres.

The island’s elevation ranges form sea level to about 40 feet. The north and northeast portions of the shoreline, bordering the Cumberland River and St. Andrew Sound, have forested dunes perpendicular to the shore. Although dunes oriented in this manner are not as protective as dunes parallel to the shoreline, the large quantity of sand contained in the system serves as a significant buffer against storm wave attack.

The island’s east-facing section also is backed by high ground. The upland landward of Christmas Creek is bounded by tidal marsh on both the ocean and sound sides. The elevation here is somewhat lower than on the main island, and some flooding may occur during severe storms.

Forest vegetation up to the Cumberland River /St. Andrew Sound shoreline indicates that a erosion predominates over accretion in this section. Records also show consistent shore line recession along the island’s west / northwestern shore. The Cumberland River shore has been steadily erosive since 1857-1868 to 1974, while the northeast corner experienced net accretion.

Historically, the east-facing shore has shown great instability. Physiographic and vegetative patterns, historical maps, charts and photographs all indicate the area is highly dynamic, with both erosion and accretion occurring along this section of beach. Because this section is located near the northward-migrating Christmas Creek and St. Andrew Sound, rapid shoreline changes should be expected.

The section landward of Christmas Creek and the Christmas Creek Inlet is strongly influenced by the inlet. This area is bounded by tidal marsh on both the ocean and sound sides. Meanderings of Christmas Creek has truncated this section’s seaward edge.

Inlet Migration
The St. Andrew Sound inlet is relatively stable, although its shores are subject to significant change. The Christmas Creek inlet is an extremely active tidal inlet; between 1974 and 1982, it migrated northward about 1,700 feet.

Land Use
The island is owned by the Little Cumberland Island Association and is incorporated into the Coastal Barrier Resources System. Three-quarters of the island is designated wilderness, while the remaining one-quarter is open to limited deed-restrictive development. The island has mostly low-density development with large individual lots. Homes are generally located some distance from the beach and are in little danger from erosion.

By Tonya D. Clayton, Lewis A. Taylor, Jr., William J. Cleary, Paul E. Hosier, Peter H. F. Graber, William J. Neal, and Orrin H. Pilkey, Sr. in Living with the Georgia Shore

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse
Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse was built in 1838. It had fourteen lamps generating a fixed light, which distinguished it from the older tower to the south that had a revolving light. In 1874, a brick wall was built around the lighthouse to protect it from the encroaching sea. The lighthouse was in service until 1915 when it was deactivated. The keeper’s house and all other light station buildings were demolished in 1968, but the tower remained. The tower was renovated in 1994 to 1998. A large dune protects the lighthouse from the ocean, but as a result the tower is now barely visible from the water. Little Cumberland Island is privately owned and is not open to the public.

The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, No. 89001407. It was designated on August 8, 1989.

Less than 100 yards from the lighthouse is the grave of a sailor named Charles Farnum, who drowned in St. Andrew’s Sound off of the coast of the island.

Tagged with: Barrier Islands in Georgia

Photo Gallery

Georgia Barrier Islands Photos

Photographs of 16 major barrier islands along the Georgia Coast with brief descriptions. Photos are arranged in geographical order north to south. For more detailed information on each island see Barrier Islands In Georgia and the Georgia Barrier Islands Map.

Click any image to start slideshow

  • Tybee
  • Little Tybee
  • Williamson
  • Skidaway
  • Wassaw's Nesting Turtles
  • Wassaw's Boneyard Beach
  • Ossabaw
  • St. Catherines
  • Blackbeard
  • Sapelo
  • Wolf
  • Little St. Simons
  • St. Simons
  • Sea Island
  • Jekyll
  • Little Cumberland
  • Cumberland

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