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Pluff Mud: The Smell of the SC Lowcountry

Pluff Mud

The water and marshlands surrounding Hilton Head Island and the coastal SC Lowcountry have always been popular among those looking for a relaxing beach vacation. It is the main reason Outside Hilton Head even exists! As you cross the bridge onto Hilton Head Island, have you ever noticed how you can already smell the beach? To some this is the smell of home; to some it doesn’t smell very good at all; to others it reminds them that the coast is near. The smell we are all inhaling is: Pluff Mud.

Whether you find the smell of pluff mud nostalgic or repulsive, you will probably agree that it is definitely Lowcountry and definitely unique! In fact, most visitors actually notice the smell almost immediately and often ask locals what it is!

What Exactly is Pluff Mud?

According to the state Department of Natural Resources, SC has more than 344,000 acres of salt marsh. This is actually more than any other state on the East Coast. Pluff mud is simply the mud lining of the salt marsh floor. It smells “different” because a lot of plants and animals die in the marsh and decompose there. The decomposition of the sea life makes for a very nutrient rich soil that produces a byproduct sulfur gas which causes the aroma. This combined with the ebb and flow of the tides, which covers the marshes with fresh water that contains silt, creates the slimy, wonderful substance known as pluff mud.

Did you know that Pluff mud is one of the reasons our area beaches, oceans and rivers are not as clear and blue as neighboring states? It is also home to some of our favorite things in the Lowcountry: oysters! 

So, the next time you gift a whiff of glorious pluff mud, inhale and enjoy the smell of the Lowcountry while you’re here! If you’d like to get out and explore the waters and marshes around Hilton Head Island, contact Outside Hilton Head here  to plan your adventure!

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