The forest contains an exceptional diversity of animal species as well. More than three hundred species of bird have been observed within the forest, including such rarities as swallow-tailed kites and wood storks.
Located in the coastal plain of Berkeley and Charleston Counties, the Francis Marion National Forest (FMNF) is composed of more than 250,000 acres of natural area, which was designated a national forest in 1936 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Much of the value of the forest lies in the biodiversity and natural communities found there. The Berkeley/Charleston County area is home to more than fourteen hundred species of plants, or approximately forty-five percent of the total number of plant species found in South Carolina. Among these are fifteen species of insectivorous (bug-eating) plants. The forest contains an exceptional diversity of animal species as well. More than three hundred species of bird have been observed within the forest, including such rarities as swallow-tailed kites and wood storks. The forest is composed of a wide variety of natural habitats, including coastal marshes, maritime forests, swamp forests, hardwood forests, and longleaf pine flat-woods and savannas. Twenty-five large, well-developed Carolina bays are also found within the forest boundaries, providing critical habitats for many rare and unusual species.
The natural areas of the FMNF are home to numerous rare and endangered plant species, including American chaffseed, Canby’s dropwort, and pondberry. The large expanses of longleaf pine forests here also provide habitat for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This bird, like many other plants and animals found here, is dependent on periodic low-intensity ground fires to keep the pinelands open and prevent invasion by hardwood species. Fire is the most important management tool used in the FMNF.
The FMNF provides miles of hiking trails with nine major trails, including the Swamp Fox trail that crosses most of the natural communities found in the forest. Trails are also provided for equestrian use. Game species abound on the forest and provide ample opportunity for hunting and fishing. Canoe and kayak enthusiasts will find many miles of quiet trails on black-water and tidal areas of Wambaw, Wadboo, Echaw, French Quarter, and Huger Creeks. Four wilderness areas provide more than thirteen thousand acres of unmanaged land for the adventurous explorer.