Monday, April 4, 2011

Atalaya Castle and Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC

by Donna L. Watkins

This 2500 acre state park is also the site of the Spanish-style castle, Atalaya, former winter home and studio of noted American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, sculptress and philanthropist who left the park and adjacent Brookgreen Gardens as a legacy. There's a 26 mile trail for bicycles or walkers. They also have Coastal Exploration programs and activities that bring the park's natural setting and Lowcountry history to life.

The park’s freshwater lagoon, salt marsh, maritime forest and beach are outstanding examples of the state’s natural coastal environment. These also provide prime habitat for birds. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded there, giving the park a reputation as a top spot on the East Coast.

The salt marsh had a long boardwalk and we were able to see a lot of water birds out there and also some type of sand crab that I took a short video of since he was running in and out of a hole in the mud-like sand. Surrounded by native flora and fauna, the park offers many observation decks and walking trails that provided opportunity for photos of the wildlife.

The Alligator population in the fresh water section of the park has grown which allows these new animals to be seen throughout the day in the lagoon which surrounds Huntington. We took a walk down the path that goes from Atalaya Castle to Brookgreen Gardens, which is across the highway from the park.

Atalaya, a National Historic Landmark, stands as monument to the creativity and generosity of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. A noted scholar of Spanish culture and art, Archer Huntington modeled the couple’s winter home in the style of the Moorish architecture of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

The home is not furnished and is open to the weather. On first approach it looks more like a prison than a home, but within the courtyard and hallways and rooms of the home, there is a feeling of warmth. Anna's studios caused me to ponder all the sculptures I had viewed at Brookgreen Gardens the day before. There was an air of inspiration present, no matter how many years have passed since she lived there. There is $1 charge to enter the home. The laminated map was very helpful to find your way through the halls and rooms.

View photo and video album of park natural areas and wildlife.
View photo album of Atalaya Castle.
Read more about Brookgreen Gardens.

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