The southeastern coast of the United States is dotted with many barrier islands -- long narrow strips of land that protect the salt marsh behind them and the land itself. In South Carolina, one of these barrier islands is Hunting Island, near Beaufort. Hunting Island State Park is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the coastal region and the ecology of the barrier island. At Hunting Island State Park, naturalists explain that these islands migrate, or constantly change, with the building up or the washing away of sand. Three varieties of palmetto trees -- the cabbage palmetto, the saw palmetto, and the dwarf palmetto -- are found in the coastal forest near the beach. Sea creatures are introduced to students at the park. The sand dollar, the starfish, and the sea urchin are all spiny-skinned animals. The plain box crab, the stone crab, and the loggerhead sea turtle all visit this island.
At Huntington Beach State Park (below Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), visitors explore the salt marsh and the delicate ecology found there. Two high tides and two low tides each day keep the salt marsh in constant change. The fiddler crab constantly waves its big claw in the air to attract females, and eats the decaying plant materials in the marsh. Other birds and animals in the marsh eat the fiddler crab as part of the food chain. Alligators and crocodiles are both found at Huntington Beach State Park. Alligators cannot stay in salt water long, and are not as aggressive as crocodiles. The crocodile is a salt-water species, and is usually larger and more aggressive than the alligator.