Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established on December 1, 1997, to protect and manage diverse habitat components within an important coastal river ecosystem. Located in portions of Horry, Georgetown, and Marion Counties, Waccamaw NWR’s acquisition boundary spans 55,000 acres and includes large sections of the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers and a small section of the Little Pee Dee River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service continues to acquire lands within this acquisition boundary from willing sellers. As of 2002, refuge lands purchased totaled just under 8,000 acres.
Habitats within Waccamaw NWR’s acquisition boundary include 6,166 acres of upland forest, located primarily on Sandy Island, with the remaining acreage being made up primarily of wetlands. The wetland diversity of this refuge sets it apart from most others found along the East Coast. Wetland habitats range from historic, broken tidal rice fields, to actively managed rice fields, to blackwater and alluvial floodplain forested wetlands of the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers. These tidal freshwater wetlands are some of the most diverse of their type found in North America and offer many important habitats for migratory birds, fish, and resident wildlife. Swallow-tailed kites, ospreys, wood storks, white ibis, prothonotary warblers, and many species of waterfowl can be observed on a seasonal basis. 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.
Waccamaw NWR is one in a complex of four refuges administered by Cape Romain NWR. Public use opportunities include hunting, fishing, canoeing, and nature observation.