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ACE Basin – Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers


South Carolina SC Newsletter SCIWAY News: October 2007 ACE Basin Roadtrip

ACE Basin – A Natural Refuge for Humans and Wildlife

South Carolina's ACE Basin encompasses roughly 350,000 acres between Beaufort and Charleston. Through a joint effort by numerous federal, state, and local agencies, as well as conservation organizations and private landowners, the basin is one of the largest protected estuarine systems on the East Coast. It provides a safe haven for wildlife and remains a buffer to encroaching development. The ACE Basin gets its name from the three waterways that flow through its varied landscape: The Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers.

Combahee River
Combahee River © Barry Gooch

Prior to the Civil War, much of the ACE Basin was planted in rice. Nowadays, many of the hiking opportunities in the area make use of former rice field embankments or dikes, providing visitors a nice flat walk with numerous opportunities to spot wildlife. Winter provides visitors with a wonderful opportunity for wildlife viewing, as many migratory birds call the ACE Basin home during the colder months. The Bear Island Wildlife Management Area, which is about 11 miles south of US 17 on Bennett's Point Road, provides 12,000 acres of managed property for wintering waterfowl and other wetland widlife. The area is open to the public and is a great stop on an ACE Basin roadtrip.

Lower Combahee River
Lower Combahee River © Barry Gooch

Further down Bennett's Point Road, there is a peaceful community in the heart of the ACE Basin. Docked at Bennett's Point boat landing, you may find the lovely Billie B shrimp trawler pictured above.

Bennetts
Bennett's Point Landing © Barry Gooch

The Grove Plantation House, pictured below, serves as the headquarters for the US Fish and Wildlife Service's ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. It was built in 1828 and is one of three antebellum mansions that survived the Civil War in the ACE Basin area. The house is situated in a beautiful setting, with numerous live oaks and former rice fields.

Grove Plantation House
Grove Plantation House © Brandon Coffey

Along the Ashepoo River

The Ashepoo River flows through the swamps of Colleton County and its basin is the "A" of the ACE Basin Wildlife Refuge. Its name comes from the Ashepoo Indian tribe.

Crosby's Landing, pictured below, used to be a boat landing and is located at the US 17 bridge on the Ashepoo River.

Feral goats live on one of the many islands along the Ashepoo River. Goats were once commonly brought to the small islands along South Carolina's shore to clear underbrush.

Crosby's Landing Old Goat
Crosby's Landing © Barry Gooch The Old Goat © Barry Gooch

Cruising the Combahee River

The Salkehatchie and the Little Salkehatchie Rivers flow through or border five counties – Allendale County, Bamberg County, Barnwell County, Colleton County, and Hampton County. These two streams meet below Walterboro and form the Combahee River, which then rolls into St. Helena Sound above Beaufort.

This blackwater river makes up the "C" portion of the ACE Basin Wildlife Refuge, and was named after the Combahee Indian tribe

Bennett's Point Road Rice Trunk Old Rice Field
Combahee Sunrise © Barry Gooch Combahee River © Barry Gooch Old Rice Field © SCIWAY
Bennett's Point Road Rice Trunk Billie B Shrimp Boat
Bennett's Point Road Rice Trunk at Bear Island Billie B Shrimp Boat

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