Wild Horses of Cumberland Island
An excerpt from the book Wild Horses of Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, provides a reversed luxury. Life experienced here is a tender yet forceful reminder of bygone times. It is at once a welcome escape from modern life, a place to unplug and reconnect with the natural world within a veritable isolated paradise. The captivating scenery, fragrant jasmine, and hypnotic rhythms of the surf provide a therapeutic alternative to a household of ringtones and reminders.
Cumberland has a rich history of pioneering residents who have long treasured the unspoiled grace of this coastal sanctuary. The natural wonders from within have made Cumberland Island an escape for a select few of America’s most influential and wealthiest families seeking the ultimate in decadent natural beauty and utmost privacy. They include members of the Carnegie family, who acquired most of the island in the late 1800s and later turned their prized treasure to the National Park Service. The island will now forever be a preserved wilderness, an isolated sanctuary within a world erupting into modern landscapes.
Cumberland Island is the largest and southernmost island in a cluster of barrier islands that skirt the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to northern Florida. Seventeen and a half miles long and 3 miles wide, the island is approximately the same size as that of Manhattan. The entire western boundary is an extensive salt marsh and tidal creek system flowing from the Cumberland River. Its waters rise and fall with the tides like a slow, infinite pulse, each cycle replenishing the mud flats with new life. The eastern coast is a vast shoreline descending from the dunes and stretching to the Atlantic. While only 3 short miles separate east from west, the habitats look and feel as though they are worlds apart.
What makes Cumberland Island so special is that so many wildly varying creatures with vastly different needs and demands can all co-exist, isolated within such tight quarters together in seemingly peaceful harmony. The island is a paradox; while a sense of peacefulness prevails and time seems to stand still on Cumberland, the competing wildlife creates a constant tension and the surrounding environs are in constant motion. No two days are the same and every visit reveals something new and unexpected.
These breathtaking encounters with nature are all remarkable in their own right, but it’s when you get your first glimpse of the island’s mysterious and majestic wild horses that your heart will start racing. Surprisingly, the horses themselves are never in a hurry. They move about casually, their regal gait slow, elegant, and deliberate, without a concern for your presence. These horses represent a window into a life in which all of our simplest needs and desires are realized. We envy their ability to live on their own terms, seemingly at peace among themselves, surrounded by such extraordinary beauty, with the natural wonders and rich variety that can only be found on Cumberland.