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South Carolina's Mysterious Ace Basin: A Hidden Treasure

submitted on 7 May 2023 by
South Carolina is a land of marshes, beaches, and sweet tea, but it is also home to a hidden treasure, the ACE Basin. Named after the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers that flow through it, this stunning region has managed to avoid widespread development and remains an oasis of natural beauty and wildlife. In this article, we'll reveal the secrets of the ACE Basin and give you some pro tips on how to explore this majestic corner of South Carolina. So, buckle up and let's take a tour of this Lowcountry paradise!

A Land of Unparalleled Beauty

The ACE Basin is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast of the United States, making it a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. It encompasses around 350,000 acres of diverse habitats, from maritime forests and salt marshes to freshwater swamps and tidal creeks. This lush, pristine environment is home to countless species of plants and animals, including bald eagles, loggerhead sea turtles, and the elusive American alligator. So, if you're looking for a place where you can reconnect with nature and admire the beauty of the Lowcountry, the ACE Basin is your dream destination.

An Ecological Wonderland

One of the greatest treasures of the ACE Basin is its ecological diversity. The unique combination of saltwater and freshwater habitats sustains an astonishing array of species, including:
  • More than 300 species of birds, such as the endangered wood stork, the regal osprey, and the stunning painted bunting;
  • Fish species like red drum, flounder, and speckled trout, which attract anglers from far and wide;
  • Various types of reptiles and amphibians, like the diamondback terrapin and the tree frog;
  • And let's not forget the countless species of plants, including live oaks draped in Spanish moss, and the carnivorous Venus flytrap.
With such a wealth of biodiversity, the ACE Basin is truly an ecological wonderland that warrants your full attention and admiration. Don't forget to bring your binoculars and camera!

Exploring the ACE Basin by Land

There are several ways to explore the ACE Basin, but if you prefer to stay on solid ground, you're in luck! There are multiple land-based opportunities for you to enjoy the natural splendor of this region. Check out these recommendations for some of the best ways to take in the sights and sounds of the ACE Basin:
  • Visit the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, which offers over 12,000 acres of protected land, including interpretive trails, observation decks, and a visitor center. Make sure to stop by the historic Grove Plantation for a peek into South Carolina's past;
  • Explore the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, where you can hike along miles of trails, observe wildlife from observation towers, and enjoy fishing and hunting opportunities (with the appropriate permits, of course);
  • Take a leisurely drive along the ACE Basin Scenic Byway, a 70-mile route that winds through charming towns, historic plantations, and breathtaking natural landscapes.
With so many options, you'll never run out of ways to explore the beauty of the ACE Basin by land!

Discovering the ACE Basin by Water

If you prefer to get up close and personal with the waterways of the ACE Basin, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. From kayaking and canoeing to guided boat tours, there's no shortage of ways to immerse yourself in the aquatic wonders of this region. Here are a few suggestions to capture some of the ACE Basin's watery magic:
  • Rent a kayak or canoe from a local outfitter and paddle your way through the peaceful tidal creeks and marshes of the basin, where you can appreciate the tranquility and observe the wildlife at your own pace;
  • Join a guided boat tour to explore the estuary with the help of an experienced naturalist who can share their knowledge of the ecosystem and its inhabitants;
  • For a truly unforgettable experience, consider a sunset cruise along the Edisto River, where you can soak in the stunning views and enjoy the golden glow of the setting sun as it casts its warm light over the Lowcountry landscape.
No matter which watery adventure you choose, you're sure to fall in love with the serene beauty of the ACE Basin's waterways.

A Well-Kept Secret Worth Sharing

Despite its extraordinary natural beauty and ecological significance, the ACE Basin remains somewhat of a well-kept secret among South Carolinians and visitors alike. However, this hidden gem is just waiting to be discovered and appreciated by those who value the wonders of nature and the importance of conservation. So, if you find yourself in the Palmetto State, make sure to set aside some time to explore this enchanting region and experience the magic of the ACE Basin for yourself.

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