In 1994, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was requested to study the feasibility of establishing a new national wildlife refuge to further protect lands that were formerly rice plantations. In 1997, Waccamaw NWR was established and its acquisition boundary encompasses 54,000 acres within Georgetown, Horry, & Marion counties including portions of the Great & Little Pee Dee Rivers & the Waccamaw River. These river systems and associated wetlands comprise a large portion of the Winyah Bay drainage basin and are an important component of the Winyah Bay ecosystem.
Waccamaw NWR was established to protect a biologically diverse system of wetland and upland habitats for the benefit of numerous plants and animals that form an integral part of the ecological functions and productivity of the Winyah Bay Focus Area. As of 2007, Waccamaw NWR had acquired 97 tracts, comprising a total of 10,590 acres. Currently, the Refuge manages approximately 24,000 acres including long-term leases and cooperatives. This management includes many types of habitat including flooded alluvial bottomlands, upland longleaf pine forests, & remnant plantation tidal rice fields.
Waccamaw NWR is also managed to provide public access to traditional, wildlife-dependant outdoor recreational activities. Objectives are achieved using habitat managment tools that include timber management, water management, prescribed burning, removal of noxious non-native species, protected sanctuary, partnerships, and environmental education & interpretation.