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Michelle Proser

Fripp’s Nature


Beach

Fripp Island is a barrier island with 3-1/2 miles of beach along the Atlantic Ocean. Constant sand migration means that the beach is always changing. New tidal pools and dunes appear and then may disappear overnight. The Fripp beach is a place that merits constant exploration.

Fripp Island is known for its expanse of gradually-sloping beach with wet sand exposed to the tides. This is the area that is perfect for wading and building sand castles. Along much of the beach, there is an upper area with white, powdery sand that forms impressive dunes.


Fripp Island is fortunate to have a series of extensive sand dunes, some several feet high. One can almost watch a dune grow as wind gathers sand around an obstacle, which is often dead cordgrass, on the beach, that has washed in from the marsh. Help protect the dunes by not walking on them.


Many varieties of shells may be found on the Fripp beach. Some of the favorites are whelks, moon snails, lettered olives, sand dollars, sea urchins, augers, baby’s ears, slipper shells and a wide variety of clams from the long razor to the tiny, colorful coquina.

Always be conscious of how many shells you take. And, do your part to preserve the sand dollar species. Leave living creatures in the ocean or lightly place them back in the water if they have mistakenly washed up on shore. Sand dollars that have washed up on shore and are whitish or pale in color are most likely dead. These are the ones you want to collect.

Never dig sand dollars from the ocean floor. Sand dollars burrow beneath the sand to protect themselves from predators and debris. If you dig up a sand dollar underwater, it’s most likely alive.

To check sand dollars before you take them, slowly turn them over and look for tiny, centipede-like feet or hairs on its bottom side. Softly brush the hairs with your fingers. If the hairs move, the sand dollar is alive. Gently place it gently back into the ocean. If the hairs don’t move, feel free to take the sand dollar home.

If a sand dollar is moist or solid in your hand, there’s a good chance that it’s alive or recently deceased, even if you found it washed up on the beach. Exercise your best judgment; consider returning sand dollars to the sea if you aren’t sure.


Fripp Island has a significant variation between high and low tides—sometimes a difference of eight feet or more. This ebb and flow contribute much to the ever-changing look of the island. Click button below for the latest tide chart.


A number of different grasses grow on Fripp dunes. Sea oats are one of the loveliest. They have tall stalks that sway gently in the sea breeze, and an extensive root system that gives stability to dunes. Because sea oats are key to preventing erosion, South Carolina has made it illegal to pick or damage sea oats. One of the least popular grasses is the low-growing sandspur that can stick into bare feet.

Jayme Fleming