The ACE Basin consists of around 350,000 acres in the watershed of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers in the South Carolina lowcountry, which drains one-fifth of the state. The ACE Basin encompasses a range of ecosystem types from forested uplands to tidal marsh (salt, brackish, and fresh water). The basin is home for more than 260 permanent and seasonal bird species and seventeen rare or endangered species, including the wood stork and the loggerhead turtle.
History, as much as geography, unites the three rivers. By the 1750s the rivers were lined with plantations dedicated to rice production and using African slaves for the arduous labor required. Most plantations controlled tidal flows by a series of floodgates (rice trunks), dikes, and canals to grow vast amounts of rice. The Civil War and emancipation, along with an increase in both foreign and domestic competition, led to the eventual collapse of rice culture. Through the twentieth century, the ACE Basin experienced almost no industrial development, which kept the landscape largely intact as forest and estuary.
In 1988 Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources joined forces to create the ACE Basin Project to preserve the landscape and wildlife habitat. The combined federal, state, and private conservation groups used purchases of public land, conservation easements, and other methods to preserve 135,980 acres of land by 2000.
Blagden, Tom. South Carolina’s Wetland Wilderness: The ACE Basin. Englewood, Colo.: Westcliffe, 1992.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Historical Atlas of the Rice Plantations of the ACE River Basin–1860. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1995.