Established in 1942, Santee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was created to alleviate the loss of natural waterfowl and wildlife habitat caused by the construction of hydroelectric projects on the Santee and Cooper Rivers.
Established in 1942, Santee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was created to alleviate the loss of natural waterfowl and wildlife habitat caused by the construction of hydroelectric projects on the Santee and Cooper Rivers. Management and protection are provided for 15,095 acres that stretch for eighteen miles along the northern shore of Lake Marion in Clarendon County.
The area includes more than ten thousand acres of open water and freshwater marsh along with mixed hardwoods and pines, croplands, old fields, ponds, and managed impoundments. Significant waterfowl concentrations winter on the refuge, as do other birds of interest. Santee Refuge overwinters the largest group of Canada geese belonging to the Southern James Bay population in South Carolina. With recorded observations of 296 species, the refuge is one of the best inland birding areas in the state.
Santee NWR includes four units, each with its own unique characteristics. The Bluff Unit is home to the Santee Indian Mound, which dates back more than 3,500 years. The mound is also the site of Fort Watson, which was an important British encampment during the Revolutionary War. Dingle Pond is home to a Carolina bay and provides unique habitat for several wetland species including alligators, wood ducks, mallards, great blue herons, and other wading and song birds. Pine Island provides protection and habitat for American alligators, numerous species of wading birds, and nesting bald eagles and is home to thousands of wintering ducks, geese, and swans. The Cuddo Unit includes mixed hardwood and pine woodlands, numerous freshwater impoundments and marshes, and several old-field and cropland sites. Bird life is abundant, as are alligators and many other native species.
Santee NWR promotes conservation and stewardship by providing wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities and offers environmental education programs. Interpretive exhibits in the visitors’ center provide an orientation to the refuge. Visitors can explore the refuge on several miles of hiking trails or on an auto drive. Fishing and hunting are permitted during designated seasons in accordance with special refuge regulations.