More than 20,000 acres northeast of Charleston where you can see Wood Stork, Prothonotary Warbler, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and Bachman's Sparrow.
By Eric Harrold | Published: 6/19/2017
Santee Coastal Reserve, a favorite spot along South Carolina’s coast, features a variety of habitats that can yield many species in a day’s visit. The entrance is a tract of longleaf pine forest where you can look for the highly sought Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow, as well as Summer Tanager and Brown-headed Nuthatch.
Beyond the forest, you will come to an open area with trailheads, picnic tables, and numerous live oaks draped in Spanish moss. From here, you can choose one of several trails that will take you to either a freshwater swamp along an 800-foot boardwalk, old impoundments, pine forest, or tidal wetlands.
Along the boardwalk in the breeding season, look for Prothonotary Warbler, as well as Wood Stork and a variety of wading birds perched high in the cypress trees. The impoundments hold waterfowl in winter and elusive birds such as King Rail. The views of the tidal wetlands permit looks at Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites and Black-necked Stilt.
Nearby Murphy and Cedar islands are barrier islands that are home to nesting loggerhead sea turtles and colonial waterbirds and stopovers for migratory shorebirds. — Eric Harrold
Eric Harrold is a naturalist, environmental educator, and tour guide. He also wrote about the Virginia Creeper Trail, Hotspot Near You No. 211.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Longleaf pine forest, plantation ruins, freshwater swamp, tidal marsh, impoundments, cypress lake.
Easy trails with little or no slope. Bicycles permitted on four trails and the entrance road.
Year-round: Anhinga, Northern Bobwhite, herons, egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White and Glossy Ibises, Wood Stork, King and Clapper Rails, Common Gallinule, Royal Tern, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman’s and Seaside Sparrows. Winter: Tundra Swan, American White Pelican, American Bittern, Bonaparte’s Gull, Loggerhead Shrike, American Pipit. Spring: Gull-billed and Least Terns, Chuck-will’s-widow. Summer: Least Bittern, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Black-necked Stilt, Painted and Indigo Buntings. Fall through spring: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Short- and Long-billed Dowitchers.
When to go
Year-round. Spring through fall for songbirds, winter for waterfowl, waders, and marshbirds.
Restricted primitive camping available year-round on barrier islands, which require watercraft to reach. All other camping activities require a permit.
State wildlife management area. No fees. Portions of reserve closed during scheduled hunts conducted from November through February each winter.
Stay on trails and boardwalks. Along impoundments watch for alligators, some of which are quite large. Bring bug spray or other insect protection during spring and summer.
For more info
Francis Marion National Forest
Hotspot Near You No. 134
Adjacent to Santee Coastal Reserve and accessible via Hwy. 17 and I’on Swamp Rd. Swainson’s Warbler, Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
Cape Romain NWR
South of reserve and east of Hwy. 17. More than 66,000 acres of barrier islands, salt marshes, coastal waterways, sandy beaches, fresh and brackish water impoundments, and maritime forest.