The Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center is Open Wednesday - Saturday as staff are available.
The Center is open Wednesday - Saturday from 9:00 am-5:00 pm as staff are available. Before your visit, please call (843) 928-3368 to confirm that the facility is open. If the facility is closed, Center grounds are open. Visitors can hike the Nebo Nature Trail, picnic at the shelter near the Sewee Pond and, observe Red wolves at the viewing platform adjacent to the trail boardwalk. Fishing is allowed in the Nebo Ponds, found along the nature trail leading southeast from the main building and bus parking area. The Sewee Pond is only open for fishing during scheduled events. If the Center entrance gate is closed, you can park off of Highway 17 and walk in to access the grounds.
Experience the unique heritage and natural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry! The Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center showcases the valuable ecosystems of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and the Francis Marion National Forest, providing recreational information and interpretation of refuge and forest ecosystems, and offering educational opportunities and enjoyable experiences for all ages. The Cape Romain NWR works in collaboration with the Francis Marion NF and the Friends of Coastal South Carolina to provide Center offerings. The Friends of Coastal South Carolina is the Friends Group for the Cape Romain NWR and Francis Marion NF, and supports the biological, historical, educational and interpretive activities of the agencies.
Interactive exhibits featuring forest to sea ecosystems
Live endangered red wolf viewing area with scheduled feeding and interpretive programs
Classroom and laboratory designed for lectures and hands-on activities
Recreation Information Center
Book sales outlet
Auditorium - an orientation film introduces you to the Refuge and Forest
Nature trail - a one-mile loop trail passes the Sewee Pond, red wolf viewing area, freshwater ponds, swamp wetlands and pine forest
Native plant gardens
The Sewee Center’s exhibits and walking trail provide many interactive interpretation opportunities. In the exhibit hall, you are guided through the forest to the sea ecosystems which highlight wildlife and plant species, and management efforts underway on the refuge and forest. Along the Nebo Trail, signage interprets the common plants and animals and life-giving systems at work in the forest.
The Sewee Center offers visitors a multitude of opportunities for photography. Stroll to the native pollinator garden areas for a chance to photograph many colorful native moths and butterflies, or walk to the Red Wolf viewing platform where you can take photos of the wolves through glass panels. The Nebo Trail offers even more chances to spot local wildlife, including several species of birds and reptiles. Look for anoles, alligators, turtles, kingfishers, herons and egrets in and around the Sewee and Nebo Ponds. At the ponds, capture shots of gators sunning along the banks or young ones swimming in the water. Look for yellow-bellied sliders and catfish close to the water's edge.
In addition to the extensive exhibits and interpretive trail, the Sewee Center offers a wide variety of educational opportunities. Educational activities occur year-round, both during the week and on Saturday mornings, and individuals, groups and scouts are encouraged to plan a visit. You can learn about upcoming week-end activities on our monthly Calendar or, you can call and schedule a group or scout visit if you have a program preference that we offer at the Center. Recurring activities at the Sewee Center include children's discovery programs on Saturdays and guided nature walks.
Annual events hosted at the Center include the Bulls Bay Nature Festival in May and Youth Fishing Rodeo in June. Cape Romain NWR works with the refuge concession to offer four public tours to Lighthouse Island to view the 1800s lighthouses. Tour participants meet at the Center for the historic presentation of the lighthouses before boarding the concession ferry to travel to the island. Lighthouse Tour reservations are made with the concession. The Youth Fishing Rodeo is offered by the Francis Marion NF and Cape Romain NWR. Children ages 6 through 16 fish the Sewee Pond and create fish art T-shirts. Prizes are awarded based on fish weights and age categories and, with fishing booklets and supplies for all, no child leaves the Center empty-handed. The Youth Fishing Rodeo is scheduled for June 8, 2024.
The Bulls Bay Nature Festival is a partnership of federal, state and local agencies, conservation organizations, businesses and schools in the Bulls Bay communities that come together to connect people with nature and each other. All activities are free, with activities offered for all ages. Festival events happen throughout the day on Cape Romain NWR, in Francis Marion NF, at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, Charleston Zip Line Adventures, Nature Adventures Outfitters Outdoor Center and the Sewee Center. The Sewee Center is the hub for the festival with numerous activities, live music, and food. The 9th annual Bulls Bay Nature Festival will be held May 18, 2024.
Currently, the Sewee Center is home for two endangered Red wolves, a sixteen-year old female known as Tigger and Conner, a five-year old male companion for Tigger. Red wolves are housed at the Sewee Center for observation, education and breeding. There are over 40 captive breeding facilities for the wolf nationwide, which are a vital element of red wolf recovery. Currently, there is a captive population of approximately 230 wolves. These wolves help to ensure the survival and genetic diversity of the species.
The Red wolf is one of the most endangered canids in the world today and is classified as "critically endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. The Red wolf is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, except in a portion of northeastern North Carolina where it was reintroduced as a nonessential experimental population at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. This population is the only known wild population of Red wolves. Today, approximately 20 are known to be in the wild.
The Red wolf's name comes from the reddish coloring of the head, ears, and legs. However, its coloring can range from very light tan to black. Weighing 45 to 80 pounds, the Red wolf is smaller than the gray wolf and larger than the coyote. The Red wolf's distinguishing features are the long ears and legs. Red wolves reach breeding maturity in their second or third year and breed in February or March of each year. Two to six pups are born in April or May. The pups are born with their eyes closed and are completely dependent on their mother for about 2 months. In the wild, they usually remain with the parents until reaching breeding maturity, forming small family groups, or packs.
It was the belief that the Red wolf caused widespread cattle losses that led to extensive predator control programs in the early part of the 20th Century. The Red wolf was also affected by land clearing and drainage projects, logging, mineral exploration, and road development that encroached on its forest habitat. As predator control programs were carried out with a vengeance, the Red wolf was totally removed from extensive areas of its former range, while in other areas its social structure structure Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish cleaning table, satellite dish/mount, or well head.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a captive breeding program for the Red wolf in 1973. Biologists began to remove remaining red wolves from the wild in an effort to save the species from extinction. Over a period of six years, 400 wolf-like canids were captured and of those, 17 were Red wolves and only 14 of those successfully bred in captivity. By 1980, the red wolf was considered extinct in the wild.
Cape Romain’s Bulls Island has played an integral role in the recovery of the endangered Red wolf. Due to its protected geographic location and prey base, Bulls Island was chosen as an experimental release site. In 1978, the 9-month successful release of two wolves, John and Judy, demonstrated the feasibility of reintroduction into the wild. Bulls Island became the first island breeding site in 1987. On April 23, 1988, two young males were born. In the following years, young pups would roam the island, learning basic survival skills before relocation into the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. On April 18, 2004 the last island litter of four, three females and one male, was born. The island breeding program closed in 2005. From 1987 to 2005, 26 pups were born at Bulls Island.
In May of 2014, the wolf Lilly gave birth to five pups at the Sewee Center of which four healthy pups survived. Jewell, one of Lilly's pups, sired five pups at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro in May, 2020.
The Refuge, Forest and Sewee Center offer exceptional experiential in-depth studies of our Lowcountry ecosystems. As always, if you have specific topics, environmental issues, species, or projects of interest, we are happy to design a program to meet your needs. We want to continue to find ways for students to learn about and explore our public lands and become involved in their environments. As a service to our communities and our national forest and wildlife refuges, or programs are offered at no charge.
Earth Stewards Science Learning and Environmental Stewardship Program
Now in its 20th year, the eight-lesson, fifth-grade Earth Stewards program continues to be the cornerstone of Friends of Coastal South Carolina’s educational efforts. Based on the fifth-grade science standards, Earth Stewards focuses heavily on the ecosystems and oceans and landforms units. We can incorporate concepts from the mixtures and solutions and force and motion units depending on teacher preferences.
Earth Stewards is a combination of in-class lessons (four lessons) and field studies experiences (four lessons) that allow students to travel to a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Learn more about national wildlife refuge or site on the Francis Marion National Forest to investigate, explore and collect data on freshwater wetlands, pine forests, and salt marsh salt marsh Salt marshes are found in tidal areas near the coast, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.
Learn more about salt marsh ecosystems. We apply the vocabulary students are learning in class as we explore factors that limit wildlife populations and impact the health of ecosystems. Back in the classroom, students will use the data they collected to better understand the interrelationships within the ecosystems they explored. When available, we incorporate data from ongoing research projects on the refuges and forest into our lessons to further strengthen the real-world connection to science learning.
As we explore the ecosystems of the refuges and forest, we discuss the importance of these places to human health (clean air and water) and the impacts human activity has on the environment. Students learn about current environmental issues like plastic pollution and climate change climate change Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.
Learn more about climate change and their impacts on wildlife and people. To take the stewardship portion of the project one step further, we offer a variety of service projects classes can choose to participate in, which allow students to become true stewards of the environment.
Our programs benefit elementary (and middle school) students and their teachers in Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, and Georgetown Counties. Our programs are offered at no cost so that all interested schools may participate.
Field studies experiences require students to be at the field site for a minimum of four hours. Lessons generally run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. we do have the option to begin earlier or later to accommodate school schedules. In-class lessons are generally one hour.
Science Education Programs Offered on-site at the Sewee Center
Would you like your students to learn about native animals and plants and the places they inhabit such as freshwater wetlands, the salt marsh, barrier islands or upland forest? If so, bring your class to the Sewee Center for an exceptional education program each student will remember for a long time.
What You Need to Do
- Determine what programs will enhance your student's studies.
- Call at least two weeks in advance. Groups are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The maximum group size is 50 and there are no fees.
- Programs at the Sewee Center are from 1 1/2 to 2 hours and incorporate the orientation video and exhibit hall. The programs, aligned with curriculum standards, offer a range of topics including threatened and endangered species, ecosystems, shorebirds, native plants and animals, animal tracks, invasive species invasive species An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.
Friends of Coastal South Carolina - Supporting Our National Forest and Wildlife Refuges
Friends of Coastal South Carolina, Inc., is a non-profit corporation formed in 1996 to support the missions of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS) and Francis Marion National Forest (USFS). The Friends group began its service by opening a book sales outlet at the Sewee Center when the Center opened in December 1996. Our Friends group is a major partner as it supports biological projects and internships, provides funding for interpretive exhibits and activities, and delivers innovative and excellent education programming. The group partnered with the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuges to expand the education outreach of these stations.
The Friends group for the National Wildlife Refuges and Forest of Coastal South Carolina has been significant to the creation, expansion, and management of the Sewee Earth Stewards program. Based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Earth Stewards framework, the curriculum-based conservation education program focuses on freshwater wetlands, salt marsh, and barrier island habitats for fifth and seventh grade students. In 1997, the Friends began providing ecosystem programs for Cape Romain NWR and Francis Marion NF, reaching about 75 students annually for the first two years. Today, our Friends interact with over 14,000 students each year along the South Carolina coast.
How to Reach Us
Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center 5821 Highway 17 North Awendaw, SC 29429
GPS Coordinates: 32.97499, -79.6693
Phone: (843) 928-3368 Fax: (843) 928-3828
The Center is closed on major holidays.
For your visit, you should bring:
- Insect repellent - Drinking water - Sunscreen - Comfortable shoes for walking
General Rules and Regulations
Fishing is allowed throughout the year at the Nebo Ponds. A state fishing license is required for the Nebo Ponds. The Sewee Pond is opened to fishing only during scheduled events.
Camping is not allowed on the grounds of the Sewee Center or in the surrounding forest areas. Camping is available within designated areas of the Francis Marion National Forest and at Buck Hall Recreation Area.
Leashed dogs are allowed along the unpaved portions of the Nebo Trail. Dogs are not allowed on the Trail boardwalk.
The Center gate closes at 5:00 p.m. After 5:00 p.m., vehicles must be parked along the roadside of Highway 17. Parking in front of the entrance gate is prohibited.
The brochure provides a list of recreational and educational activities at the Sewee Center. Highlighted is the Friends Group, Friends of Coastal South Carolina and, contact information is given for educators who wish to schedule environmental education programs.
Francis Marion NF Headquarters 2967 Steed Creek Road (State Road 133) Huger, SC 28450 Phone: (843) 336-2200 Fax: (843) 336-2250 Website: www.fs.usda.gov/scnfs Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/scnfs Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30pm The Headquarters is closed on federal holidays.
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