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National Wildlife Refuge

21424 N. Fraser Street
Georgetown, SC   29440
E-mail: marshall_sasser@fws.gov
Phone Number: 843-527-8069
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Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge

Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge was established on December 1, 1997 to (1) protect and manage diverse habitat components within an important coastal river ecosystem for the benefit of endangered and threatened species, freshwater and anadromous fish, migratory birds, and forest wildlife, including a wide array of plants and animals associated with bottomland hardwood habitats; and (2) provide compatible wildlife-dependent recreational activities including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and interpretation for present and future generations.

Located in portions of Horry, Georgetown, and Marion County, the refuge's acquisition boundary spans over 55,000 acres, including large sections of the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers and a small section of the Little Pee Dee River. An active land acquisition program from willing sellers is ongoing. Presently Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge manages 22,931 acres.

Waccamaw NWR is one of four refuges in the South Carolina Lowcountry Refuge Complex. The Complex includes Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin, Cape Romain, Santee, and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuges. In 2008 Waccamaw NWR opened the newly constructed Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area and the Refuge is completing construction of a new state-of-the-art Environmental Education Center on Highway 701 north of Georgetown. The new center is scheduled to open in May, 2009.

Getting There . . .
Presently there are four Refuge owned tracts that are accessible by automobile on Waccamaw NWR (see map). These tracts are the Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area, Yauhannah Bluff, Yauhannah Tract and the Buckheister Tract. The Refuge is actively improving access on these tracts and as the acquisition process continues, more tracts offering vehicular access may be acquired.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Habitat within Waccamaw NWR's 54,000 acre acquisition boundary includes 6,166 acres of upland forest, located primarily on Sandy Island, and the remaining balance made up primarily of jurisdictional wetlands. The wetland diversity of this refuge is what sets it apart from most others found along the east coast. Wetland habitats range from historic, broken and actively managed tidal ricefields, to black water and alluvial flood plain forested wetlands of the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers. These tidal freshwater wetlands are some of the most diverse freshwater wetland systems found in North America and they offer many important habitats for migratory birds, fish and resident wildlife. Species such as the swallow-tailed kite, osprey, wood stork, white ibis, prothontary warbler, and many species of waterfowl can be observed on a seasonal basis. Most notable, the refuge area supports the highest density of nesting swallow-tailed kites in South Carolina and is the northernmost documented nesting for this species within its range. Additionally, these wetlands play a critical role in the filtration and storm water retention of the primary drinking water resource for the greater Grand Strand region.

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Waccamaw NWR has a rich history. The land within the acquisition boundary has been inhabited by humans from prehistoric periods through modern history. Early Native Americans lived off the land and its wildlife for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of European Colonists who settled the area. After the colonization of SC Native Americans traded by-products derived from these lands to European settlers and trading posts were established to facilitate trade including one that was located near the site of the new Environmental Education Center. Other historic uses of the lands that now make up the Refuge include rice culture, turpentine production, logging operations and at least four ferry crossings for transportation.

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Waccamaw NWR is a relatively new refuge, therefore public use areas and opportunities are being added as staff and funding grows. Please check the Refuge website for the latest announcements.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
Current management activities on Waccamaw NWR include longleaf pine restoration and native warm season grass restoration in fallow farm fields, Atlantic white cedar restoration, wetland restoration and enhancement, invasive species control, wetland research, wetland management, and habitat monitoring. Use of prescribed fire is an important management tool on longleaf sites and managed wetlands on the Refuge. Research on swallow-tailed kites, black bears, and climate change are all underway on the Refuge.

The Waccamaw NWR also manages a growing public use program which includes nature trails, boardwalks and a new state of the art environmental education center.