Santee Coastal Reserve – McClellanville, South Carolina
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Santee Coastal Reserve
The Santee Coastal Reserve, headquartered in McClellanville, was established in 1974 on 24,000 acres of land purchased by the Department of Natural Resources and donated by The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy had acquired the land from the Santee Gun Club, which was established here in 1898. The property comprising the gun club had previously been Eldorado and Ormond Hall plantations. The plantation land was originally inhabited by Sewee and Winyah Indians.
The property that became Ormond Hall was first purchased by a free black named John Williams, who bought 400 acres in 1757. Eldorado was owned by Revolutionary War heroine Rebecca Motte, who built a brick home on the acreage in 1797. Though the structure burned in 1897, its ruins remain within the reserve. After acquiring the former rice plantations, Captain Hugh Garden of Sumter established the Santee Gun Club in 1898. Membership consisted primarily of wealthy northerners, including honorary member President Grover Cleveland. The gun club building, seen below, now serves as a meeting place and informal museum.
Within the reserve are Cedar Island, Murphy Island, The Cape, and the Washo Reserve (sometimes spelled Washoe). The Washo Reserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy, which co-manages the property along with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Cedar Island and Murphy Island are comprised of former rice fields that support a diversity of bird species and are accessible to visitors only by private boat.
A component of the land which made it desirable as a gun club were its marshes and former rice fields, which make good habitat for water fowl and other wildlife. Thus, the area has been a managed wildlife reserve of sorts since the late nineteenth century. The Collins Creek Gun Club helped manage the reserve from 1974 through 1999. Above, a rice trunk helps control flooding and drainage of the tidal marsh.
Santee Coastal Reserve was designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, a recognition that attempts to promote bird conservation and biodiversity. Loggerhead turtles nest on Cedar and Murphy Islands, and alligators also thrive here in abundance. The reserve hosts a number of diverse forests, including a large natural stand of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and mixed hardwoods. It also features those mysterious South Carolina geological formations, Carolina bays.
Santee Coastal Reserve is full of recreational opportunities for visitors. Hunting, hiking, cycling, and bird-watching are all popular activities within this carefully managed-preserve. Though it is closed to the public during scheduled hunts, the Santee Coastal Reserve is otherwise open to the during daylight hours and for primitive camping overnight.
Murphy Island – Santee Coastal Reserve
Murphy Island consists of 13,530 acres, only 650 of which are considered high ground. Remnants of rice fields can be observed on the island.
Cedar Island – Santee Coastal Reserve
Cedar Island is a ten-mile-long, two-mile-wide island of 4, 050 acres within the reserve. The island separates the Santee River into two parallel channels, the South Santee and North Santee, before the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Though the Santee Coastal Reserve has its headquarters in Charleston County, Cedar Island is located in southern Georgetown County.
Santee Coastal Reserve Info
Address: 220 Santee Gun Club Road, McClellanville, SC 29458
GPS Coordinates: 33.147848,-79.396347
Santee Coastal Reserve Map
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