Our Photographers Contact Us
Our Patrons Please Give Today Add Images Add History Our Work South Carolina Picture Project

ACE Basin — Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  ACE Basin

Adopt A South Carolina Landmark
ACE Basin

South Carolina’s ACE Basin encompasses over 1,000,000 acres between Beaufort and Charleston and even stretches up to Orangeburg County and Bamberg County. As of 2015, 217,156 acres of the ACE Basin are protected. Through a joint effort by numerous federal, state, and local agencies, as well as conservation organizations and private landowners, the basin is one of the largest protected estuarine systems on the East Coast. It provides a safe haven for wildlife and remains a buffer from encroaching development. The ACE Basin gets its name from the three waterways that flow through its varied landscape: The Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers.

Combahee River

Barry Gooch of Port Royal, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Prior to the Civil War, much of the ACE Basin was planted with rice. Nowadays, many of the hiking opportunities in the area make use of former rice field embankments or dikes, providing visitors a nice flat walk with numerous opportunities to spot wildlife. Winter provides visitors with a wonderful opportunity for wildlife viewing, as many migratory birds call the ACE Basin home during the colder months.

Egrets at Bear Island WMA

Sue Roberts of Kershaw, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Many of the private properties protected in the ACE Basin include historic rice plantations. Cheeha-Combahee Plantation, seen below, is located on the Combahee River in Wiggins and is an example of one of the properties purchased during what was known as the Great Northern Migration. Just before the Great Depression, many of the plantations in the Lowcountry were purchased by wealthy Northerners for use as hunting preserves as Southerners had fallen on hard times after the Civil War. The new owners are largely responsible for protecting these historic properties from further subdivision and demolition. Cheeha-Combahee has 12,500 acres of protected property with an easement held by Ducks Unlimited.

Cheeha-Combahee Plantation

Mills Morrison of Savannah, GA, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Bear Island Wildlife Management Area, which is about 11 miles south of US 17 on Bennett’s Point Road, provides 12,000 acres of managed property for wintering waterfowl and other wetland wildlife. The area is open to the public and is a great stop on an ACE Basin roadtrip.

Bear Island WMA

Ted Jennings of Summerville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Further down Bennett’s Point Road, there is a peaceful community in the heart of the ACE Basin. Docked at Bennett’s Point boat landing, you may find the lovely shrimp trawler pictured below.

Bennetts Point Trawler

David Thompson of Anderson, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Formally called the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge in honor of former governor and United States senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, this refuge occupies 12,000 acres of the ACE Basin on a former rice plantation called Grove Plantation.

Grove Plantation

David Thompson of Anderson, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Its erstwhile rice fields, untouched since the Civil War, help create the diverse ecosystem found within the refuge. The plantation’s 1828 home – one of only three antebellum plantation homes in the ACE Basin to remain intact after the Civil War – now serves as the refuge’s headquarters.

Grove Plantation Porch

Ted Jennings of Summerville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The rice trunk seen below demonstrates how slaves controlled irrigation of the rice fields, which was dependent on tidal rivers. Rice, a particularly labor-intensive crop, was dependent on slaves for its cultivation. Following Emancipation, the rice industry collapsed in the absence of forced labor.

ACE Basin Rice Trunk

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

After the war the acreage was purchased by wealthy sportsmen for hunting grounds, and the land remained pristine and well-managed by its new owners throughout the years. The plantation was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1991, who sold it to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service the following year to be managed as a wildlife refuge. Both natural and cultural history are preserved at the refuge. The antebellum house, rice fields, and rice trunks tell the story of rice culture and slave life on a Lowcountry rice plantation. The image below shows what is thought to have been the plantation manager’s office, which was built in 1929 during the ownership of Mr. Owen Winston, the one-time President of Brooks Brothers.

Grove Plantation Slave Cabin

Orin Blomberg of Olympia, WA, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Ashepoo River

The Ashepoo River flows through the swamps of Colleton County and its basin comprises the “A” in ACE Basin Wildlife Refuge. The name Ashepoo comes from the Ashepoo Indian tribe.


Mills Morrison of Savannah, Georgia, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Crosby’s Landing, pictured below, was a well-loved landmark located on the south side of the US 17 bridge over the Ashepoo River; it was destroyed when that portion of 17 was widened by the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Crosby's Landing

Barry Gooch of Port Royal © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The photo below depicts the old store known as B.J. Brant General Merchandise, named for its owner. The store has a sign indicating that the post office was located here for the community around Ashepoo. The inclusion of a post office within a general store is typical of rural areas, and these buildings almost always served as community gathering places as well. The photo was captured during the Works Progress Administration’s documentation as part of the Federal Writers’ Project between 1930 and 1940.

Ashepoo Country Store and Post Office

Marion Post Wolcott, Works Progress Administration Photograph Collection, 1930-1940

The photo below shows the Ashpeoo Depot, which was the passenger station for people traveling by train, a predominant mode of transportation in South Carolina in the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. The depot is no longer standing.

Ashepoo Train Depot

South Caroliniana Library, Ben Roberts, Ben Roberts SC Railroads Collection, Date Unknown

The Combahee River

The Salkehatchie and the Little Salkehatchie Rivers flow through or border five counties – Allendale County, Bamberg County, Barnwell County, Colleton County, and Hampton County.

Combahee Sunrise

Barry Gooch of Port Royal, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

These two streams meet below Walterboro and form the Combahee River, which then rolls into St. Helena Sound above Beaufort.

Lower Combahee

Barry Gooch of Port Royal, 2007 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

This blackwater river makes up the “C” portion of the ACE Basin Wildlife Refuge and was named after the Combahee Indian tribe.

Ace Basin Spartina

Barry Gooch of Port Royal, 2009 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In a historic event known as the Combahee Ferry Raid, three small United States Navy ships, transporting 300 men from the 2nd South Carolina, commanded by Colonel Montgomery, along with the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery controlling the weapons, left Beaufort heading towards the Combahee River, Harriet Tubman accompanied the troops. Tubman, along with 150 African-American Union soldiers, freed more than 750 slaves on the night of June 2, 1863. Pictured below is a landing on the Combahee River, at the foot of a bridge named in Tubman’s honor, is the general area historians believe where the freeing occurred. Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 and became the first woman to lead a major military operation in the country. She went to work on similar missions with the Massachusetts 54th Infantry and spent her final years of life tending to wounded soldiers.

Harriet Tubman Combahee River Site

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Edisto River

At 206 miles long, the Edisto River is the longest blackwater river in North America. The river begins in Saluda County and flows down the state, finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The ACE Basin rests at the mouth of this amazing water system.

Edisto Green Pond

Tom Taylor of Greenville, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Named for the Edisto Indian tribe, the Edisto River is represented by the ‘E’ in ACE Basin. The photo above shows the Edisto River at Green Pond, part of the ACE Basin.

Reflections on the ACE Basin

Contributor Brittany Callahan, who captured the photo below of Grove Plantation, shares: “I took this while on an adventure driving through the ACE Basin. I felt very alone on the property, which was both eerie and peaceful. The highlight of my visit was seeing a family of wild boar on the way back to my car! This image was made using a large format film camera- similar to those used during the plantation’s heyday.”

Grove Plantation

Brittany Callahan of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

21 Comments about ACE Basin

Suzanne Drawdy says:
July 26th, 2019 at 7:19 pm

Look forward to checking in at this website. The photos are beautiful.I hope to contribute to the future conservation on the ACE Basin.

SC Picture Project says:
June 5th, 2019 at 2:45 pm

How wonderful to have wintered in such a natural haven for so long. Bennett Point is magical!

Peg Tribert says:
June 4th, 2019 at 7:18 pm

My father wintered at Ashepoo Plantation for 20 years. Bennett Point was my first South Carolina experience and it hooked me forever.

Mary Yakush says:
March 13th, 2019 at 11:30 am

I’d like to visit Grove Plantation on Sat. March 23 or Sun March 24. Will the house be open then? I’m writing the new interpretive brochure for the NPS Reconstruction National Monument and would like to see a rice plantation.

SC Picture Project says:
August 24th, 2018 at 9:43 pm

We are so glad you enjoyed it, and we share your sentiments entirely!

Vivian Lewis says:
August 24th, 2018 at 4:04 am

This was very delightful history to me. I love living in S.C. and we have some of the most beautiful sights in the U.S. We must fight to keep lands such as these untouched by those wanting to dig for oil. Thank you so much for giving me a fact I didn’t know until I read this.

Amy Griffith says:
March 24th, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Thank you!

Angus Patterson Jr says:
August 24th, 2018 at 5:27 pm

I have a book with the Patterson History, I will check it out.

SC Picture Project says:
March 20th, 2018 at 10:37 pm

Hello Amy! According to http://www.ricekingdom.com/planters.html, Angus Patterson planted White House Plantation on the Ashepoo River. We searched for that name, and the address we found for the plantation is 5877 Clover Hill Road in Green Pond. We hope this helps!

Amy Griffith says:
March 20th, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Angus Patterson 1786-1854 lived in Barnwell District, SC (Senator and President of the SC Senate for 37 years) purchased a plantation on the Edisto River near Midway in 1824. The plantation’s point on the Edisto River was called “Old Quarter Landing”. The Augusta-Charleston Road was near this plantation. Angus Patterson stilled owned the plantation and it is listed in his will made in 1854. Does anyone know where this plantation was located? Thank you.

SCIWAY says:
August 9th, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Hello Linda, there are supposed to be one million extra people in South Carolina for the eclipse. It is hard to gauge where one can go without traffic because we are sure most are seeking that. We would maybe suggest Donnelley WMA in Green Pond which would not be too awfully far from Savannah. That would give you a great water reflection option. We are not sure if that falls directly in the path but it should. We hope this helps!

Linda Ferguson says:
August 9th, 2017 at 9:56 am

Seeking a place to come take solar eclipse pictures on the 21st that’s hopefully less trafficked that many places farther north! Please advise if anyone has a suggestion, with specific directions, to stop and set up my tripod. LOVE to have a water reflection site if possible! Driving up from Savannah. Thank you!

Sonja Bell Jordan says:
June 28th, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Qow, since my teens I've felt the southern lowcountry of coastal rivers and marsh to be the most beautiful, serene place. Decades later, I still feel this way, and I have lived in coastal regions of other states.

Sonja Bell Jordan says:
June 28th, 2016 at 8:37 pm

I live near downtown Charleston in a residential area, and often see racoons, sometimes lone racoon, or as many as five just pass through the yard and wander down the street. They stop and stand on their hind legs and look at me and then just wander away. at first I called animal control to asked what if anythin I should do about reporting my sightings. They said as long as they do not appear to be in immediate distress and, or, an apparent threat, to just let them be.

ted welch says:
May 27th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

If you past Bennett’s Point coming from S. Edisto, where do you end up?

SCIWAY says:
April 6th, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Hi, Vivian. Try Keeper of the Wild: http://www.keeperofthewild.org/ Best of luck!

Vivian Marie Sage says:
April 6th, 2016 at 8:16 pm


Liz Wilder says:
March 4th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Grove Plantation was a welcome surprise at the end of a two-mile dirt road in Hollings National Wildlife Refuge. We went there looking for birds and found them and more.

Gerard Berry says:
October 21st, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Great place to visit

Irvin Bennett says:
September 12th, 2015 at 11:05 pm

My love.

George Lander says:
May 31st, 2015 at 9:39 am

The ACE Basin is truly a National Treasure.


Join Us on Facebook
Follow Us on Instagram
See Us on Pinterest


Abbeville ACE Basin Adams Run Aiken Alcolu Allendale Anderson Awendaw Bamberg Banks Barns & Farms Barnwell Batesburg-Leesville Beaches Beaufort Beech Island Belton Bennettsville Bishopville Blackville Bluffton Bridges Bygone Landmarks Camden Carnegie Libraries Cayce Cemeteries Charleston Charleston Navy Base Cheraw Chester Chesterfield Churches Clemson Clinton Clio Colleges Columbia Conway Cordesville Courthouses Darlington Daufuskie Island Denmark Dillon Donalds Easley Edgefield Edisto Elloree Erhardt Eutawville Fairfax Florence Folly Beach Forests and Nature Preserves Fort Mill Fountain Inn Gaffney Garden City Beach Georgetown Glenn Springs Graniteville Great Falls Greeleyville Greenville Greenwood Greer Hamburg Hampton Hardeeville Hartsville Hemingway Hilton Head Historical Photos Historic Houses Hodges Holly Hill Honea Path Hopkins Hotels & Inns Huger Hunting Island Isle of Palms Jails James Island Jamestown Johns Island Johnsonville Johnston Kiawah Island Kingstree Lake City Lake Marion Lakes Lancaster Landrum Latta Laurens Lexington Libraries Lighthouses Little River Lowndesville Manning Marion Mars Bluff McClellanville McCormick Military Mills Moncks Corner Mountains Mount Carmel Mount Pleasant Mullins Murrells Inlet Myrtle Beach National Register Newberry Ninety Six North Augusta North Charleston North Myrtle Beach Orangeburg Pacolet Parks Pawleys Island Pendleton Pickens Piers Pinewood Pinopolis Plantations Pomaria Port Royal Post Offices Prosperity Ravenel Restaurants Ridgeland Ridge Spring Ridgeway Rivers Roadside Oddities Robert Mills Rock Hill Rockville Rosenwald Schools Salters Saluda Santee Savannah River Site SC Artists SC Heroes of the Alamo Schools Seneca Shrimp Boats Society Hill Spartanburg Sports Springs St. George St. Helena Island St. Matthews Stateburg Stores Sullivan's Island Summerton Summerville Sumter Sunset Synagogues Town Clocks Trains & Depots Trees Trenton Troy Turbeville Ulmer Union Wadmalaw Island Walhalla Walterboro Ware Shoals Waterfalls Water Towers Wedgefield West Columbia Westminster Winnsboro Woodruff Yemassee York