Francis Marion National Forest

Quick Facts

Francis Marion National Forest

South Carolina

(843) 887-3257

Map

Things To Do

Overview

The Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina is a lush landscape of pine stands and wildlife-filled swamps and marshes shaded by towering bald cypress trees. Four wilderness areas, one with a marked canoe trail, offer visitors a unique opportunity to glimpse the wild landscape as it might have appeared earlier in history.

In recent years, the Francis Marion has been in the process of recreating itself. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo's 130-mph winds leveled more than a third of the forest. In following years, the resulting resurgence of young trees and understory shrubs posed a heightened threat of catastrophic fire and presented the forest with an unprecedented problem to dispose of the dense vegetation. Forest managers met the challenge by converting the chipped forest biomass into an energy source for local power; this practice continues today.

The Francis Marion is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The forest spans nearly 259,000 acres, and offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities ranging from hiking, biking, motorcycle and canoe trails to rifle ranges and a boat launch.

The Francis Marion National Forest is located in the coastal plain of South Carolina and is bounded to the north by Santee River, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The forest is situated between two major metropolitan areas: Myrtle Beach (30 miles to the north) and historic Charleston (40 miles to the south). This part of coastal South Carolina is a popular tourist destination, well-known for its freshwater and saltwater recreational opportunities, golf and tennis, beautiful coastal scenery and historical landmarks dating from prehistoric times through the Revolutionary and Civil War eras.

Map of Francis Marion Forest

Latitude, Longitude: 33.144880, -79.695110

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Activities

  • Boating

    The site of the old Buck Hall plantation is the best way to access the tidal waters around the forest. A boat launch ramp and two floating docks are available. Parking for 175 vehicles with trailers is also available.

  • Bicycling

    Six trails in the forest are open to bikes. These trails are the Awendaw Passage/Palmetto Trail, Jericho Horse Trail, South Tibwin Hiking Trail, Swamp Fox Passage/Palmetto Trail, Tuxbury Horse Trail, and Wambaw Cycle Trail.

  • Camping

    It doesn't matter if you enjoy primitive camping or RVing, you can find a spot on the Francis Marion National Forest. Camping is allowed only in developed campgrounds and in designated primitive sites. This policy, developed in the early 1970s, reduces conflicts and provides greater safety during the hunting seasons and reduces littering. Individuals desiring to camp outside these areas may apply for a free permit from the local district office. Campfire permits are not required. However, please check with the local district office about fire conditions.

    The Francis Marion National Forest offers camping opportunites at Buck Hall Recreation Area, Elmwood Recreation Area, Honey Hill Recreation Area and Swamp Fox Passage/Palmetto Trail.

  • Fishing

    Wambaw Creek is best toured by canoe. It is impassable in many areas due to downed trees. Other streams popular with local anglers include Chicken and Echaw creeks. The Santee River borders the northeast edge of the Wambaw side and offers good fishing especially for those anglers with boats. Bream, brass, striped bass, crappie, catfish, and shad are the favored species. The lower portion of the Santee River along with Awendaw Creek and the Intracoastal Waterway provide saltwater fishing for such species as red drum, spots, and catfish. Buck Hall Recreation Area also offers fishing opportunities.

    Guilliard Lake, an old oxbow off the Santee River, offers ten acres of fishing for a variety of species. These species are usually similar to those found in the river. Huger, Nicholson, and Turkey creeks are the main creeks fished on the Witherbee side of the forest. Local anglers try for some of the large shellcrackers found in these waters.

  • Hiking

    The South Tibwin Hiking Trail, Swamp Fox Passage/Palmetto Trail, and Tuxbury Horse Trail are all great routes for hikers.

  • Horseback Riding

    Two horse trails are available to visitors. The Jericho Horse Trail is a 19-mile loop that traverses a wide array of habitat types, from mature longleaf pine stands to bottomland hardwood drains, and offers captivating scenery to visitors. Horseback riders and mountain bikers may glimpse prothonotary warblers darting among the trees.

    The Tuxbury Horse Trail is a 14-mile loop that ambles along old railroad logging trams, traversing a wide array of habitat types from mature longleaf pine stands to bottomland hardwood drains. It offers captivating scenery to visitors who may glimpse prothonotary warblers darting among swamp cypress knees or endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers in search of food in the bark of majestic longleaf pines.

  • Off Highway Vehicles

    The Wambaw Cycle Trail is a figure-eight motorcycle, OHV and mountain bike trail. This sandy course winds through fragrant pine woods with shimmering hardwoods in the understory. Along the way riders can glimpse vernal ponds with bald cypress as well as turkeys and white-tailed deer. While the trail is designed for motorcycles, it can accomodate OHVs under 50 inches wide and mountain bikes. Jeeps, Hummers and other four-wheel drive vehicles are not permitted. The trail and the Round Trailhead are maintained with fees collected.

Seasonality/Weather

The climate is hot and humid in the summer and is generally mild in the winter.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(843) 887-3257

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