The Secluded Hog Island Trail and Observatory (Patriots Point), Charleston SC

photography by: Omri Westmark

If you could be teleported directly into the middle of Hog Island, you would most probably assume that this lush strip of land is simply the leftover of an otherwise typical American suburb. However, this former island along Mount Pleasant’s coastline has many forgotten stories to tell, while its current landscape offers one of Charleston’s last enclaves of unspoiled nature.

The Island’s Turbulent Past and Peaceful Present

Don’t let Hog Island’s verdant appearance and sheer serenity mislead you, as this unassuming patch of land encompasses centuries of tumultuous history. The American Revolutionary War, fought between the formidable British Empire and the then nascent U.S nation, turned many places across North America into a bloody battlefield. During the war in 1775, the strategically situated Charleston became a combat zone between loyalists and patriots, when both of its major rivers, the Cooper and Wando rivers, were heavily militarized and fortified.

 

In an attempt to block the British navy, the patriot forces sank four old ships in the deep channel between Hog Island and the mainland. By doing so, the patriots managed to halt the advance of British vessels into the city, inflicting a severe blow to their military campaign in South Carolina.

 

Roughly a century later amid the American Civil War, the Hog Island channel was littered with mines by the Confederacy soldiers as a countermeasure against advancing Union vessels. Additionally, a single-gun battery was placed along the southern shore of the Island in 1863, fortifying it even more. As of today, no remnants of the battery are left, besides perhaps within the collective memory of Mount Pleasant’s residents.

 

Following decades of incessant dredge spoil, Hog Island merged with the nearby mainland and practically is no longer an island. The former island wasn’t only physically absorbed into the eastern bank of the Cooper River but also lawfully, when in 1975 it was incorporated as part of Mount Pleasant’s municipal jurisdiction, and soon after changed its name to Patriots Point. Nowadays, the island provides a blissful respite of wilderness that pretty much encapsulates how the region used to look prior to the frenzy urban development.

A sandy walkway across Hog Island's coastal area

photography by: Omri Westmark


A vast sea of tall grass and reed

photography by: Omri Westmark


Half sandy, half grassy, the island shoreline offers a glance of Charleston' skyline

photography by: Omri Westmark


The beach is littered with hundreds of shells, each with its own unique color and shape

photography by: Omri Westmark


Weird round patterns on the sand are a testimony for burrows dug by crabs

photography by: Omri Westmark


A small burrow surrounded by the island's coastal vegetation

photography by: Omri Westmark


The marshy reed-rich field on the backdrop of Hog Island's thicket

photography by: Omri Westmark


The Trail and Observatory

Whereas Hog Island far-extends beyond its narrow strip of coastline, it is the southern tip of the island which is the worthy part to explore.
The suburban nature of Mount pleasant makes the car option by far the easiest way to reach Hog Island’s secluded trail, with plenty of parking available at the adjacent Patriots Point Links golf course. The main entrance is tucked away along Patriots Point Rd and a bit challenging to find as it is marked solely by a modestly sized info plaque.

 

The island’s natural area alternates between a dense thicket and a reed-rich coastal environment, when the former is traversed by a short meandering trail. With scorching temperatures during the summer as well as much of the autumn and spring, the wooded path provides a much-needed shade. Curiously, the trail has a few pockets of extant marshland that together with the rest of island serve as a habitat for myriads of endemic animal species, including seabirds, insects and crustaceans.

 

The trail ends at a wooden lookout with expansive views of Hog Island’s coastline, the Cooper River and even a distant glimpse of Charleston Downtown area. To access the beach, just walk behind the observation deck. The shoreline, unlike the surrounding thicket, is covered mostly with short vegetation and small puddles of water in between.
With only a handful of visitors all year round, it is very likely that you’ll have this strip of virgin wilderness entirely for yourself.

Patriot Points Rd.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The hidden entrance of Hog Island Trail

photography by: Omri Westmark


Grass, trees and tall shrubbery all constitute the area's lush thicket

photography by: Omri Westmark


A small remaining pocket of swamp along the trail

photography by: Omri Westmark


Tall bald trees partly covered by Spanish moss

photography by: Omri Westmark


The observation deck's entrance

photography by: Omri Westmark


Hog Island at its fullest glory as seen from the main lookout

photography by: Omri Westmark


The observation deck, as seen from the coastal area

photography by: Omri Westmark


To get to the beach, just walk along the side of the wooden observatory

photography by: Omri Westmark