South Carolina Lowcountry Refuges
Southeast Region


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Frequently Asked Questions

  Grove Plantation House, E.F.Hollings ACE Basin NWR. Credit: Ray Paterra/USFWS
  Grove Plantation House. E.F. Hollings ACE Basin NWR.
Credit: Ray Paterra/USFWS

Q. What is the SC Lowcountry Refuge Complex?

A. South Carolina Lowcountry Refuge Complex is composed of four National Wildlife Refuges, all located in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina: Cape Romain, Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin, Santee, and Waccamaw Refuges. Each refuge was established for a specific purpose and all are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System.

Q. Where is the Headquarters Office for the Refuge Complex?

A. The HQ Office is located at Cape Romain NWR, 5801 Highway 17 North, Awendaw, SC 29429.

Q. What is the difference between a National Wildlife Refuge and a wildlife management area?

A. National Wildlife Refuges are lands set aside specifically for wildlife. There are 556 NWR's nationwide, encompassing over 150 million acres of public lands. Wildlife managment areas are State owned areas that are managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for wildlife conservation and management.

Q. Where can I learn more about the National Wildlife Refuge System?

A. Go to to learn more about the Refuge System and visit a refuge on-line. The NWRS is the largest network of federal lands set aside specifically and primarily for wildlife.

Q. Is it OK to hunt on the refuges?

A. Some form of hunting is offered at each of the four refuges. You can read the regulations on deer hunting in refuge Hunt Brochures. Go to Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin, Cape Romain, Santee, or Waccamaw refuge to view the current Hunt Brochure.

Q. What does ACE stand for in the name Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin NWR?

A. The ACE (Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers) Basin is a 350,000 acre area made up of many different habitat types such as brackish water tidal marshes, fresh water wetlands, bottomland hardwoods, pine and hardwood uplands, barrier islands and beaches. It is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast of the United States. The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, at nearly 12,000 acres, is a part of the Basin acreage and works to protect this estuary.

Q. What is the history of the Grove Plantation House at Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin NWR?

A. The Grove Plantation house was built in 1828 as the main residence for a family owned rice plantation. It was one of only three in the ACE Basin to survive the Civil War. The house stayed in private ownership until 1991 when it became part of the ACE Basin NWR. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plantation house now serves as the Headquarters Office for the Refuge. The office is usually open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and closed on weekends and federal holidays.

Q. How can I get to Cape Romain NWR and/or Bulls Island?

A. Cape Romain NWR is primarily a mosaic of barrier islands, tidal creeks, salt marsh, and open ocean off the coast of South Carolina. Refuge barrier islands can only be reached by boat. Bulls Island lies nearly three miles off the mainland and can be reached by Ferry through the Refuge's concessionaire, Coastal Expeditions. The ferry service takes visitors to Bulls Island on regularly scheduled days. Visitors desiring information on how to get a seat on the Ferry to Bulls Island should call the Sewee Visitor Center at 843.928.3368 or call Coastal Expeditions at 843.881.4582. You can also visit the Coastal Expeditions website at Coastal Refuge facilities accessible by automobile are the Refuge Headquarters at 5801Highway 17 North, Awendaw, SC, 29429; the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center at 5821 Highway 17 North, Awendaw, SC 29429; and Garris Landing, a boat launch facility with boat dock, parking area, fishing pier and restrooms that is located at the end of Bulls Island Road.

Q. Can I visit the Cape Romain Lighthouses?

A. The two historic lighthouses, built in 1827 and 1857, are located on Lighthouse Island, one of Cape Romain NWR's barrier islands. Lighthouse Island is located approximately 5 miles off the coast, east of the town of McClellanville. Neither lighthouse is visible from the mainland. If you have your own personal watercraft, Lighthouse Island is available during daylight hours. The refuge offers four guided Lighthouse Tours annually. To register and purchase your tickets for the tour, call the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center at 843.928.3368.

Q. Is camping permitted on the refuges?

A. Cape Romain NWR offers camping for hunters participating in the two week-long deer archery hunts on Bulls Island. With this exception, overnight camping is not permitted on any of the refuges. For visitors to Cape Romain NWR, camping is available at the nearby U.S. Forest Service Campground, Buck Hall Recreation Area, located approximately 5 miles south of McClellanville off of Highway 17 North. For visitors to Santee NWR, Santee State Park on the south side of Lake Marion offers cabins and campsites. In addition, several commercial campgrounds are located in the area.

Q. When and where can I go to see ducks or geese?

A. November through February is the best time to observe waterfowl. Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin and Santee NWR winter up to 25,000 ducks each winter. Several areas along Santee NWR's Bluff Unit nature trail offer good opportunities for viewing ducks and geese. In addition, an observation tower along the trail provides a good vantage point to see geese feeding in corn and wheat fields. The Bluff Unit is an excellent area to see wood ducks in the springtime. At ACE Basin, visitors can view ducks at the managed impoundments directly behind the Grove Plantation house.

Q. Can I see the Loggerhead sea turtles nesting and hatching at Cape Romain?

A. You cannot see the turtles nest or young hatch on the island beaches in the refuge. Both nesting and hatching occur during the night hours and, refuge islands are open to visitors from sunrise to sunset. Two local state parks offer night programs to view turtles. Contact the Environmental Education Center, Edisto Beach State Park (843.869.4430) and the Environmental Education Center, Huntington Beach State Park (843.235.8755) for scheduled programs.

Q. Where is a good place to stop and hike?

A. Santee NWR , located about 5 minutes off of Interstate 95, is a good place for travelers to stop and hike. From I-95, take the Hwy 15/301exit on the North side of Lake Marion and follow the signs to the Visitor Center. The Wrights Bluff Nature Trail, a one-mile loop, takes you through forested areas and along Cantey Bay where you have a great opportunity to view songbirds, wading birds and other wildlife.

Q. Where can I get more information about Waccamaw NWR?

A. The Environmental Education Center, opened in October, 2009, is the gateway to the Waccamaw NWR. Built on a 22-acre tract of land that overlooks the Great Pee Dee River and Yauhannah Lake, the 7,300 square ft. Center houses an exhibit hall, auditorium, gift/book shop, conference room and environmental education classroom/wet lab. The Center, located just 21 miles north of Georgetown on Highway 701, is opened weekdays from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Visit the Center or call 843.527.8069 for refuge information.

Last updated: February 19, 2013
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