South Carolina Picture Project
South Carolina Picture Project

Woods Bay State Park — Olanta, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Florence County  |  Woods Bay State Park

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Woods Bay State Park

The coastal plain of South Carolina is home to mysterious geological formations known as Carolina Bays, though they also occur elsewhere along the east coast. The bays are elliptical-shaped depressions that possess diverse ecosystems, depending on their depth, size, elevation, and other factors. Though the bays’ origins are not determined, many scientists believe they were caused by limestone sinkholes, with wind patterns moving water within the depressions and creating their shape. Not only can visitors see these fascinating formations at Woods Bay State Park in Olanta, but they can witness some of the largest remaining Carolina Bays along the Atlantic seaboard.

Woods Bay State Park Boardwalk

Linda Molzahn Churchwell Barber of Summerville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The park encompasses 1,590 acres of ecological diversity, including sandhills, marshes, and evergreen shrub bogs. A boardwalk winds 1,150 feet through a cypress swamp, and canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are allowed within this gem of a state park.

Woods Bay State Park

Donna Edgeworth of Scranton, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In fact, the park claims that the best way to experience the Carolina Bays at Woods Bay State Park is to paddle alongside them. A nature trail takes visitors three-quarters of a mile around a mill pond where two grist mills and a cotton gin once operated. The brick foundation of one of the mill structures remains visible.

Woods Bay Sign

Donna Edgeworth of Scranton, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Underground springs supply the bays with water, and several species of endangered plants and animals thrive within the park. American alligators are commonly spotted in the park, as the reptiles have found the perfect habitat of large, open waters teeming with food in the swamp and mill pond. Despite the below photo, alligators are typically viewed in the water from the boardwalk rather than on the boardwalk itself.

Woods Bay State Park Gator

Linda Molzahn Churchwell Barber of Summerville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Birding is a popular activity at Woods Bay State Park, with 81 bird species documented within the park to date. Picnic shelters are also available, making Woods Bay the perfect day trip destination for lovers of the outdoors. The property was acquired by the state for use as a park in 1973.

Woods Bay Alligator

Donna Edgeworth of Scranton, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on Woods Bay State Park

Contributor Karen Creel says: “The boardwalk at Woods Bay State Park takes you on a journey through the swampy area near Olanta. Be on the lookout for alligators, as they roam freely around this park.”

Woods Bay Boardwalk

Karen Creel of Florence, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Woods Bay State Park Info

Address: 1020 Woods Bay Road, Olanta, SC 29114
GPS Coordinates: 33.949454,-79.976145

Woods Bay State Park Map

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2 Comments about Woods Bay State Park

SC Picture Project says:
May 13th, 2019 at 9:55 am

You’re right to be concerned, due to the nature of them being wild animals, it is best to always exercise caution. We wouldn’t personally recommend taking your dog (if at all possible) on the boardwalk as it traverses the swampy areas and potentially places it in the path of an alligator. People are usually enough to scare one away, dogs however, are easier for them to go after.

Angel McCutcheon says:
May 13th, 2019 at 12:50 am

I have not been to Woods Bay as of yet but I look forward in going soon. Has any person or pet been attacked by alligators? I have a service dog and although we were not attacked by an alligator at Cypress Swamp we were stalked and followed by one. Woods Bay looks as if it is more rural than Cypress Swamp so I was curious to know if I would need to be prepared to protect ourselves from an alligator attack.


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