A Swamp Thing

There are roads in Palmetto land that go nowhere near big cities. And that’s not bad. One road, Highway 64, leads to Walterboro where an ancient lane once cut a green leafy tunnel through a swamp. Just three minutes off I-95, a town, of all places, provides a tranquil setting to contemplate a Southern swamp. Had Joseph Conrad written a novel about Walterboro he might have titled it “Heart of Greenness,” for a shimmering 842-acre swamp lives within Walterboro’s city limits.

Located in the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the sanctuary may well provide the only braided creek swamp accessible to the public. The Ashepoo River’s headwaters (the A in the ACE Basin), originate in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary offers many opportunities to observe wetland life. Stroll the boardwalk stretching over more than two miles of swamp. See the Old Charleston to Savannah Stagecoach Road where George Washington gazed out a stagecoach window “to acquire knowledge of the face of the country.” At best, he made 33 miles a day the spring of 1791, and you can bet he saw plenty of wildlife. Interested in history and archaeology? You can explore the Old Wagon/Stage Coach Road over which all overland traffic passed between Charleston and Savannah.

As for the swamp, it consists of hardwood flats with interweaving streams. Natural wealth includes beaver, deer, fox, otter, mink, opossum, raccoons, squirrels, wildcats and wild turkey. Feathers aplenty here. Bird life includes a large, year-round, population of songbirds, wading birds, ducks and raptors. The area serves as an important resting area for transient and migrating birds.

The Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary brings history, culture, recreation, and education together in a unique setting. Overland trails and boardwalks offer a chance to get some exercise as does a bicycle path. Tying it all together is the Discovery Center, an interpretive exhibition hall that informs visitors about the important role swamps play in the Lowcountry ecosystem and the habitat they maintain for numerous flora and fauna.

It’s a matter of mere steps from natural history to Walterboro’s main historic district. Consider an overnight stay in this unique place where a swamp sanctuary forms a town’s green heart, and remember that man needs swamps too. They serve to cleanse our water, remove toxins from the environment, and best of all remind us the tremendous losses we’ve suffered when it comes to swamps and wetlands, once believed to be a source of diseases thanks to the evil miasmas that emanated from them.

If You Go …

• 122 miles

• Free Admission

• Open from dawn to dusk

• 399 Detreville Street

Walterboro, S.C. 29488

• 843-549-2545

• www.walterborosc.org/walterboro-wildlife-sanctuary.aspx

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]