Just a 25-minute drive from Bluffton lies a natural marvel untouched by commercial industry.
Some of the area’s tidal wetlands were converted to rice plantations in the mid-1700s. Hunting retreats popped up in the late 1800s. But, the F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge preserves approximately 12,000 acres of this natural environment. It serves as a protected habitat for the creatures that call it home. This includes a number of endangered and threatened species.
Bird watchers travel to South Carolina’s ACE Basin.
They watch bald eagles soar and marvel at the ospreys, egrets, herons and sandpipers around the wetlands of Bear Island. White-tailed deer and turkey hunters seasonally descend upon the forests of the basin’s Donnelley Wildlife Management Area.
The basin’s collection of pristine freshwater streams, saltwater marshes, tidal creeks and brackish waters offers fishing enthusiasts a chance to catch large bass and to spot members of the ACE Basin’s large family of alligators. Paddle through this area by kayak or canoe and enjoy the sights and sounds of this natural treasure.
Offering excellent hiking, biking and nature trails, the ACE Basin is the perfect place to introduce children to the wonders of biology and ecology.
The less adventurous can get a taste of the basin’s swamps, wetlands, uplands and forests by driving along designated dirt roads or down the make-shift road lined by moss-draped live oak trees to Grove Plantation. The antebellum house that now serves as the office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, was once owned by Brooks Brothers’ President Owen Winston and occupied by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
The ACE Basin’s public sites are open to the public year-round during daylight hours. These include:
- Bear Island
- Donnelley Wildlife Management Area
- Edisto River
- ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
The park allows leashed dogs, so bring your pup with you!