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Huntington Beach State Park - BirdForum Opus

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View over Mullet Pond, across the causeway from the inlet
Photo by Robert Steffens
October 2015

United States, South Carolina


The park is divided into several different environments. A causeway separates the tidal inlet from a brackish pond called the Mullet Pond for the predominant species of fish. Specialized water handling mechanisms originate in the old slave days called trunks are used to add and remove water to and from the pond. Two fresh water sources keep the pond from becoming too salty for the alligators to spend much of the day in the pond. There are a number of observation platforms and board walks overlooking Mullet pond and the inlet (one storm-damaged board walk was closed for reparations in 2023). In the south-west, The Mallard pond (a freshwater environment) is separated from the Mullet Pond by the carriage path that runs from Atalaya to Brookgreen Gardens. North-east of the causeway is a nature trail passing by Sandpiper pond. Further north is the northern beach access, from where a 1.2 mile walk takes you to a jetty giving access to watch wintering ducks and other birds connected with the sea, and also gives access to some habitat for e.g., Wilson's plover.

The unique environment has made the park a home and migratory stop for a large number of bird species. Over 300 species of birds have been seen in the park.

Sunset at Huntington Beach SP
Photo by Robert Steffens
December 2015
Click on image for larger version

It should be noted that the beach access means this can be a very popular area for the general public in summer, to the extent that access is shut off if the number of visitors fills all the parking spaces.


Notable Species

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Birds you can see here include:

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Other Wildlife

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Site Information

Looking north towards the inlet
Photo by Robert Steffens
September 2013

History and Use

The park, originally the property of Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer M. Huntington, was leased after his death and takes its name from him. The 2500 acre (10 km²) tract was leased to the state in 1960 for use as a state park. Mrs. Huntington died in 1973. Atalaya was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and was included in the designation of Atalaya and Brookgreen Gardens as a National Historic Landmark in 1984. He and his wife's winter home, Atalaya Castle, is located in the park. Built during the Great Depression by only local workers, the residence was designed to withstand hurricanes.

The studio of his wife, the noted 20th-century American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, was part of the compound. Many of her significant sculptures are in nearby Brookgreen Gardens, an extension of the former Huntington estate, now a public sculpture garden. The straight path separating Mallard Pond from Mullet Pond was used to move the large sculptures from the studio to the gardens.

Historically the area of the park was a rice plantation which extended from the ocean to beyond the Waccamaw River which parallels the coast. After the Civil War the rice growing dwindled out and the plantations passed hands many times until the Huntingtons bought the land, which was actually 4 plantations, around 1930. Brookgreen was one of the original plantation names.

Areas of Interest

There is a spillway for overflow from the Mallard pond to the Mullet pond. The alligators (a big attraction for many visitors) can be seen in all three environment, but usually return to the Mallard pond after feeding at night and early daylight in the Mullet Pond or the Inlet.

Access and Facilities

  • Admission: $5 adults, $3.25 seniors, $3 children 5-15, free for under 5s - there is a separate admission charge for the Atalaya building. (update: the above fees seems to be from 2016. In 2023, the per person fee has increased to $8/day. There is a number of annual passes available for people living in the area).
  • Opening times: every day at 6 a.m. Closing times vary with the season, see their website

Contact Details

16148 Ocean Hwy
Murrell's Inlet
SC 29576

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.