Sunday, September 2, 2012

Favorite Places: Folly Beach's Lighthouse Inlet

We're fortunate to have several public access beaches to enjoy in the Charleston area. One of my favorites is a part of Folly Beach many people may not know about. It's in an area long known as The Old Coast Guard Station, but today is offically called Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve.
On Folly Inlet with the Morris Island Lighthouse behind me
You'll find this treasure of a place by going all of the way north on Folly Beach's main road, past the surfers' Wash Out, until the road comes to an end. After parking, to reach the beach, you'll have about a 10 minute walk on the grounds of what used to be a U.S. Coast Guard station. The inlet can also be reach by walking along Folly Beach. The effort is worth it because from this remote vantage point, you have an excellent view of the Morris Island Lighthouse and Morris Island.  Morris Island, which has a very interesting history, remains undeveloped and can only be reached by boat (or air).
These folks also like this spot for a lighthouse photograph 
Built in 1876 to replace a lighthouse that was destroyed during the Civil War, the 161-foot Morris Island Lighthouse used to be on Morris Island but over the decades erosion has put it out to sea. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962. Click here for more on the lighthouse's history.
The inlet is accessible by foot and bike- cars get no closer than half a mile or so
Folks willing to do a little walking or biking can enjoy a fabulous view of the lighthouse. There are lots of creative photo opportunities too.  A few years ago I ventured to this spot before sunrise to take pictures and video. Check my YouTube posting here to see those images.
Coastal birds like to hang out here too!
Along Folly inlet there's a nice stretch of beach for sunning, running, and biking. But swimming and wading are phohibited due to deadly currents.
Fishing is popular in these waters which are calmer than the nearby ocean.
Charleston County Parks and Recreation and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources now manage this property. Vandalism, graffiti, litter and unauthorized late night parties had been problems here, but much of those issues have been eliminated.
I, for one, appreciate recently added signs like this one that educate visitors about shorebirds they may see here, while also telling people to keep their distance from the birds and their nests.
In the photo above you see the Sullivans Island lighthouse in the background. The Morris Island light is on much more solid ground today due to the efforts of the Save the Light organization, which bought the beacon in 1999. At that point the structure was very unstable, listing and decaying inside and out.
Through Save the Light's impassioned leaders, members and other supporters, the lighthouse has been stablized and is on its way to further rehabilitation and restoration, perhaps even getting a fresh coat of paint one day.
I have long been an admirer of lighthouses and am a proud member of Save the Light. In 2008 I produced this short video about the restoration project, which happily has met all objectives to date, with more improvements coming in the years ahead. But much more fundraising is needed. Contact Save the Light if you'd like to learn more and possibly get involved too!
Another great thing about Folly Beach and "The Edge of America"- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. It's open daily and worth the extra effort to see if you haven't been yet!

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