South Carolina

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve – Conway, South Carolina

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People tend not to think of rare plant and animal species when they think of Myrtle Beach. Yet, not far from the Grand Strand’s signature city, and just off the beaten path of Conway, sits a nature preserve of over 10,000 acres that feels worlds away from the sights and sounds of the popular beach town. Not only do endangered red cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) make habitat within the preserve’s longleaf pine trees (Pinus palustrus) – themselves rare species due to over-harvesting – but rare and endangered Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) can be observed in the longleaf pine savannahs of the preserve.

Lewis Ocean Bay

Tara Bailey of Summerville, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Though Venus flytraps (seen below) can be found for sale in most nurseries or hardware stores, their natural range is quite limited, and South Carolina can boast that it is home to the carnivorous plant. Though its range technically extends from Charleston County to the Green Swamp of North Carolina, it is primarily found within Horry County in the Palmetto State. In fact, no populations are presently known below Horry County. Unfortunately, the species is vulnerable to poachers who collect them to propagate and sell.

Venus Flytrap

Tara Bailey of Summerville, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Other carnivorous plants can be found in abundance throughout the preserve, such as frogs’ breeches (Sarracenia pupurea), dwarf sundew (Drosera brevifolia), and yellow trumpet pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava), which can be seen below. The poor soil quality and drainage create ripe habitat for these plants, which use insects for supplemental nutrition. The natural communities, ranging from sandy flatwoods to pine savannahs, allow for great species diversity within the preserve. The preserve is also home to 23 Carolina bays, geographical occurrences of unknown origins. The elliptical formations act as basins and collect freshwater, hosting several water-tolerant plant species such as pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens).

Pitcher Plant

Tara Bailey of Summerville, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the preserve undergoes regular maintenance including periodic burns to keep diversity thriving. Lewis Ocean Bay is considered a small-scale diversity site, meaning that several species of plants exist within a small area. Around 150 different plant species can be observed in 1 square meter of this site.

Bear Track

Tara Bailey of Summerville, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The preserve is also known for being the home of South Carolina’s largest population of black bears (Ursus americanus). Increased traffic due to nearby development has resulted in the accidental killing of several black bears by vehicles. A 2007 study found that 41 bears in the area were killed by cars on neighboring roads. Such encounters can be dangerous not only for bears, but also for motorists, so be on the lookout when driving near the preserve.

Frog's Breeches

Tara Bailey of Summerville, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Nature lovers will appreciate the plant and animal diversity of Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve. A walk through the savannahs, Carolina bays, and wildflower meadows of the site make visitors feel far-removed from the hustle and bustle found just up the road. In fact, visitors need to be careful not to accidentally trample the plants that occur so frequently throughout the preserve, such as the abundance of frog’s breeches, seen above. For those looking to experience the ecology of the Grand Strand without the noise and crowds – and to see what the land off Ocean Boulevard may have looked like generations ago – venture to Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve Info

Address: International Road, Conway, SC 29526
GPS Coordinates: 33.821370,-78.909955

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve Map

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!


The South Carolina Picture Project is a volunteer project which earns no profit. We work hard to ensure its accuracy, but if you see a mistake, please know that it is not intentional and that we are more than happy to update our information if it is incorrect. That said, our goal is to create something positive for our state, so please make your comments constructive if you would like them to be published. Thank you!

10 Comments about Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve

JuanNo Gravatar says:
November 8th, 2017 at 3:14 pm

I was hunting for deer and I saw a big mama bear with two little ones on 10-07-2017.

JonNo Gravatar says:
July 2nd, 2016 at 1:53 am

My home borders this preserve in my backyard. I have seen bears, almost daily, in my backyard for almost 2 weeks now. One appears to have a tracking collar. Is there any info available?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 28th, 2016 at 7:38 am

Wow, thank you for sharing!

Melinda WilliamsNo Gravatar says:
January 27th, 2016 at 10:43 pm

On 1/26/16 I saw a bald eagle flying right in front of me on the International Drive area heading north east. Beautiful!

South Carolina says:
October 30th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

We have linked to it in the comments.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
October 30th, 2015 at 9:24 am
Amelia Thompson says:
October 29th, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Would you be willing to share the 2007 study referenced above?

Robin Welch says:
July 28th, 2015 at 3:45 pm

I agree, Jim. That Tara is a keeper! I loved reading this page and seeing the pictures from her trip. She is a joy to work with and I learn so much from her every day.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 25th, 2015 at 7:26 am

Thank you for your kind words, Jim!

Jim JenkinsNo Gravatar says:
July 24th, 2015 at 2:23 pm

What a neat photographer you are in addition to all the other nice things you do for SCIWAY. I found this interesting, thanks for sharing these photos.

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