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Santee Wildlife Refuge — Summerton, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Clarendon County  |  Santee Wildlife Refuge

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Santee Wildlife Refuge

The Santee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 on more than 13,000 acres on Lake Marion in Summerton. The refuge hosts numerous bird species including shore birds, wading birds, and even raptors, many of which use the refuge as a stopover during their yearly migrations. It also serves as a permanent home to the wood stork (Myctaria america), a threatened species, and the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis).

Santee Wildlife Refuge Cuddo Unit

Chris Walsh of Manning, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Cultural history is as intriguing as natural history in the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. The preserve features a Santee Indian mound thought to be 3,500 years old, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The mound, once used for burials and other ceremonies, is the easternmost example of Mississippian culture.


Blake Lewis of Greenwood, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

During the Revolutionary War, British troops converted the mound to a fort due to its excellent views of the Santee River. They called their stronghold Fort Watson for Colonel John Watson. However, in 1781 Fort Watson fell to the Swamp Fox, General Francis Marion. The mound is now protected by the United States Department of the Interior.

Santee Wildlife Refuge

Kelly Fickling Reardon of Sumter, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Santee National Wildlife refuge is divided into four units. The Bluff Unit, seen above, is where visitors can find the Indian mound as well as the mile-long Wrights Bluff Nature Trail. Dingle Pond Unit is the site of a Carolina Bay, a natural oval depression of unknown origin that houses its own plant and wildlife community. Pine Island Unit and Cuddo Unit each afford opportunities to observe a wide variety of bird species. The above photo was taken from the Cuddo Unit, the Wildlife Refuge’s easternmost unit. This area also provides visitors with ample hiking and cycling opportunities among the protected wetlands.

Cuddo Unit Cypress Trees

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

One of the most popular alligators among photographers who visit the unit is this bull, or male, alligator seen below, reported to be fourteen feet long.

Bull Gator, Cuddo Unit

Jim Benson of Hopkins, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

More Pictures of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge

American Alligator Babies, Cuddo Unit

Jim Benson of Hopkins, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Cuddo Unit American Alligator

Jim Benson of Hopkins, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on the Santee National Wildlife Refuge

Contributor Linda Brown says of her photo below, “These Shoveler ducks were feeding in the refuge when a Harrier Hawk buzzed over them, scattering them.”

Santee NWR Ducks

Linda Brown of Kingstree, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Santee Wildlife Refuge Info

Address: 2125 Fort Watson Road, Summerton, SC 29148
GPS Coordinates: 33.538233,-80.432644
Website: http://www.fws.gov/santee/

Santee Wildlife Refuge Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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2 Comments about Santee Wildlife Refuge

SC Picture Project says:
July 27th, 2019 at 10:30 pm

It is open all year, Mondays excluded, except when closed during special hunts. The official schedule is available through the US Fish and Wildlife’s website (linked above). There are no guided tours as it is not staffed full-time. The property is open during daylight hours and tours are self-guided. You are able to drive around by car, as well as take several walking trails. Hope this helps!

Sharon says:
July 27th, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Very informative but does not include info to know how and who can visit, cost, days, hours, etc. Are tours available? Is this conducive to seniors, children, or yearround visits?


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