What is the Sound | Port Royal Sound Foundation - Beaufort County

The Sound

What it is

Let’s first define a sound and describe some of the geological features that make up the Port Royal Sound Area. A sound is an ocean channel between two bodies of land, yet still accessible by ocean-going vessels. This means that the channels, which are relatively shallow and narrow bodies of water, are deep enough to allow deep-hulled ships to pass through unscathed.

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The Sound

What it is

Let’s first define a sound and describe some of the geological features that make up the Port Royal Sound Area. A sound is an ocean channel between two bodies of land, yet still accessible by ocean-going vessels. This means that the channels, which are relatively shallow and narrow bodies of water, are deep enough to allow deep-hulled ships to pass through unscathed.

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The Sound

What it is

Let’s first define a sound and describe some of the geological features that make up the Port Royal Sound Area. A sound is an ocean channel between two bodies of land, yet still accessible by ocean-going vessels. This means that the channels, which are relatively shallow and narrow bodies of water, are deep enough to allow deep-hulled ships to pass through unscathed.

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Ocean Influenced

Almost all of the rivers and creeks in Beaufort County and the Port Royal Sound watershed are not what we traditionally think of as rivers. Port Royal Sound rivers don’t have a headwater originating inland, either in the mountains (brown-water rivers) or in the coastal plain (black-water rivers), with fresh water flowing toward the ocean. Instead, ocean tides drive water flow in the Port Royal Sound Area rivers.

The area has exceptionally high tides (eight-plus feet) because of its geographic location.

These high tides drive ocean water through a network of tidal rivers and creeks that extend 20 miles inland. Tidal creeks are easily recognized at a distance because they are bordered by grasses and rushes that can tolerate regular salt-water flooding. Low tide reveals muddy banks pockmarked with thousands of holes made by fiddler crabs and bordered by intermittent oyster beds.

Port Royal Sound

Calibogue Sound

Saint Helena Sound

Significant depth & size

The Port Royal Sound Area includes Port Royal Sound and Calibogue Sound. These two sounds are interconnected and have very similar ecological traits, so are usually viewed as one system. The Saint Helena Sound system is much different from the Port Royal Sound system due to the large inflow of fresh water from the ACE Basin. As a result, the species composition is much different.

The Port Royal Sound Area encompasses all the areas directly affected by the water flowing into Port Royal or Calibouge Sounds. This includes such rivers as the Beaufort, Broad and May, as well as all their tributaries. The Port Royal Sound Area is much larger than many people realize. It extends almost all the way to Interstate 95 and covers most of Beaufort County, as well as portions of Jasper and Hampton counties. All told, the Port Royal Sound Area comprises nearly 1,600 square miles of land, marsh and river.

Encompassed by Land

The salt marsh is a coastal wetland flooded and drained by water brought in and out by the ocean’s tides. The low marsh, which is flooded daily by high tides, is made up of a monoculture of Spartina alterniflora. Spartina alterniflora is the only plant that can tolerate daily inundation by salt water. The high marsh is the area only flooded during exceptionally high tide events. It is characterized by two species of plants – black needle rush and glasswort. The upper boundary separating a salt marsh from the adjacent upland is characterized by plant species that can tolerate infrequent flooding by salt water. These include Spartina patens and and ox-eye daisy.

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Tony from Costal Kingdom explores the Port Royal Sound when rising seal levels submerged valleys along the South Carolina coast.

Encompassed by Land

The salt marsh is a coastal wetland flooded and drained by water brought in and out by the ocean’s tides. The low marsh, which is flooded daily by high tides, is made up of a monoculture of Spartina alterniflora. Spartina alterniflora is the only plant that can tolerate daily inundation by salt water. The high marsh is the area only flooded during exceptionally high tide events. It is characterized by two species of plants – black needle rush and glasswort. The upper boundary separating a salt marsh from the adjacent upland is characterized by plant species that can tolerate infrequent flooding by salt water. These include Spartina patens and and ox-eye daisy.

Learn More

Tony from Costal Kingdom explores the Port Royal Sound when rising seal levels submerged valleys along the South Carolina coast.

What is a Hummock?

A hummock is a small island surrounded by salt marsh and typically vegetated with evergreen trees and shrubs that can tolerate salt spray. Some local hummocks consist almost exclusively of oyster shell discarded by hundreds of generations of pre-Columbian Indians. They do support populations of smaller animals, such as lizards, birds and insects, and they provide resting places for larger mammals and birds.

What is a Hummock?

A hummock is a small island surrounded by salt marsh and typically vegetated with evergreen trees and shrubs that can tolerate salt spray. Some local hummocks consist almost exclusively of oyster shell discarded by hundreds of generations of pre-Columbian Indians. They do support populations of smaller animals, such as lizards, birds and insects, and they provide resting places for larger mammals and birds.

The Uplands

The uplands comprise islands and mainland that are high enough in elevation that they only flood during severe storms, such as hurricanes. Although above the high tide line, uplands still are connected to the salt marshes and tidal creeks because groundwater carrying nutrients, and in some cases pollutants, seeps from the uplands into the adjacent marshes.

The Uplands

The uplands comprise islands and mainland that are high enough in elevation that they only flood during severe storms, such as hurricanes. Although above the high tide line, uplands still are connected to the salt marshes and tidal creeks because groundwater carrying nutrients, and in some cases pollutants, seeps from the uplands into the adjacent marshes.

Get in Touch

Maritime Center

(843) 645-7774
310 Okatie Highway, Okatie, SC 29909

Get in Touch

Maritime Center

(843) 645-7774
310 Okatie Highway, Okatie, SC 29909

Port Royal Sound Foundation

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