Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge
Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge was established to (1) protect and manage diverse habitat components within coastal river ecosystems for the benefit of endangered and threatened species, freshwater and anadromous fish, migratory birds, and forest wildlife, including a wide array of plants and animals associated with bottomland hardwood habitats; and (2) provide a variety of wildlife-dependant recreational activities including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, & environmental education.
The refuge headquarters and environmental education center is located 20 miles north of Georgetown, South Carolina and 15 miles south of Conway, South Carolina at 21424 N. Frasier Street, (U.S. Highway 701). The environmental education center is a state-of-the-art facility which includes a fully equipped wetlab, exhibit hall, auditorium, and nature store. The facility offers opportunities for environmental education to local schools and communities as well as interpretation and information specific to Waccamaw NWR.
The Cox Ferry Recreation Area is located on Gary Lake Blvd., accessible from Jackson Bluff Road. It offers the public three miles of interpretive nature trails, a boardwalk, kiosks, and a weather shelter with picnic tables. The nature trails are accessible from both parking areas and lead visitors through a variety of habitats and are open year round for hiking, biking, environmental education and nature photography.
Waccamaw NWR has endless opportunities for canoeing, kaking and boating. In fact, many feel that the best way to see the refuge is from the water. The Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers have been designated by South Carolina as Scenic Rivers. These two rivers converge in the heart of the Refuge to form a thriving estuary full of wildlife and beautiful low-country vistas.
There are canoe and kayak launching facilities located at Cox Ferry Recreation Area and the Visitor Center. The refuge does not have its own motorboat launching facilities; however, there are many public and private launching facilities located along the Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers.
Waccamaw NWR is becoming a hotspot for Swallow-tailed kites. Listed as endangered in South Carolina, these raptors nest on the refuge during spring and summer and have been seen flying over the Visitor Center and neighboring rivers during all hours of the day. The Refuge is home to over 200 species of birds throughout the year including warblers, woodpeckers, owls, finches, ducks, geese, herons, storks, eagles, hawks, falcons, quail, turkey, and many others. Visitors can enjoy birding along any of the trails as well as from a boat in the waters surrounding the refuge.
The rivers surrounding Waccamaw provide excellent year-round opportunities for recreational fishing. Freshwater fish such as largemouth bass, Redbreast sunfish, Bluegill, Redear sunfish, Warmouth, Pumpkinseed, Black crappie, Chain pickerel, Redfin, pickerel, Bowfin and numerous species of catfish are all highly sought after by anglers in this blackwater river system. The Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Black Rivers all combine to provide an unimpeded tidal freshwater estuary full of life. Most fishing is done from boats in the surrounding waters around the refuge. There are several public and private boat launches along the Great Pee Dee River and Waccamaw Rivers. The refuge does not have its own boat launching facilities. Bank fishing on refuge-owned property is allowed; however, access to these opportunities is limited. There is not a special Refuge fishing license, however, all fishermen must abide by state license requirements and harvest regulations. Please refer to the Refuge Hunting Permit and Hunting and Fishing Regulations brochure above for more information and license requirements. Additionally, visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website. (http://www.dnr.sc.gov/fishing.html)
At the Visitor Center, we have a self-guided interpretive trail discussing much of the local flora and fauna.
Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area in Conway, S.C. has three trails of varying lengths including our new boardwalk which allows hikers to meander through a flooded cypress swamp. You can expect to see a variety of forest wildlife, including an array of plants and animals associated with bottomland hardwood habitats.
Hiking is also permitted along the Great Pee Dee River at the Hwy. 701 bridge just north of Yauhannah Lake. Bring your binoculars or camera and let nature entertain you.
Waccamaw National Widlife Refuge offers a variety of hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, feral hog, turkey, squirrel, raccoon, opossum, snipe, woodcock and waterfowl in accordance with state regulations and seasons. Big game hunting, primarily for white-tailed deer has been a traditional recreational use in the local area and on the Refuge. Deer harvest is essential to maintaining the herd's overall health and for protection of sensitive habitats. The Refuge allows hunting of white-tailed deer with archery, muzzle loader, and modern weapons. Turkey hunting is allowed on the Refuge in Unit 1 for youth only. We do not allow adult turkey hunting.
Hunting feral hogs is also permitted on Waccamaw NWR. This extremely invasive non-native species is found on all three Refuge hunting units.
If you are looking for a relaxing spot to have a picnic, perhaps alongside a sparkling river, the refuge has you covered. There is a covered picnic pavilion at Cox Ferry Recreation Area on the bank of the Waccamaw River as well as picnic tables at the Visitor Center at Yauhannah Bluff overlooking Yauhannah Lake. Enjoy the serenity of the sights and sounds of the unique blackwater riverine systems that surround the refuge.
Excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography can be found by boating through Big and Little Bull Creeks.
Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed all Federal Holidays
Located in the Visitor Center, The Trading Post is a gift shop that is run by the SEWEE Association, Inc. Proceeds help to fund projects and environmental education programs on the refuge. The shop accepts cash, debit, checks and credit cards.
The South Eastern Wildlife and Environment Education Association (SEWEE Association) is the Friend's Group for the National Wildlife Refuges and National Forest of coastal South Carolina. The organization works with federal partners to achieve their mission in biological, cultural and educational activities. SEWEE has supported the Endangered Red Wolf and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting projects of Cape Romain NWR for over 10 years. They have also helped Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin NWR create a new public use area on the Combahee unit of the refuge. And SEWEE has worked with Waccamaw NWR as they develop places for visitors both in Georgetown and Horry counties.(843) 884-7539
Directions to the Visitor Center Address: 21424 N. Fraser Street, Georgetown, SC 29440 Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed all Federal Holidays.
From Georgetown, SC: From the intersection of Highways 521, 701, & 17, take Hwy 701 North toward Conway, S.C.. The refuge is exactly 20 miles from Wal-Mart on Hwy 701 North. The visitor center will be on your right before you cross the Great Pee Dee River & Yauhannah Lake.
From Conway, S.C: Take Highway 701 South 15 miles towards Georgetown, S.C.. The refuge is located on the left-hand side of the road right after you cross the Great Pee Dee River & Yauhannah Lake. Directions to Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area in Conway, SC Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
W. Cox Ferry Parking Area: In Conway, take Hwy 544 to W. Cox Ferry Rd. Parking area is approximately 2.5 miles on left. Look for yellow gate & Refuge sign.
Jackson Bluff Parking Area: In Conway, take Hwy 544 to Jackson Bluff Rd. Stay straight when road turns to the left. Parking area is about 200 yards on left hand side.