The Santee National Wildlife Refuge is located in Clarendon County, South Carolina. The refuge was established in 1941 to compensate for the loss of habitat by the creation and flooding of the Santee Cooper Lakes. Of the total 13,000 acres that make up the refuge, over 4,448 acres are owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The remaining acreage is managed under a cooperative, long-term lease agreement with the South Carolina Public Service Authority. The refuge also manages 10 conservation easements on private lands, totaling 458 acres in Bamberg, Barnwell, Clarendon and Orangeburg counties.
The refuge has over 39 miles shoreline along Lake Marion, the largest lake in the State. It is the primary inland wintering area for migratory ducks and geese in South Carolina, as well as a nesting and stopover area for many migratory song birds, raptors, marsh birds, and wetland wildlife. The refuge manages four separate units, which include large migratory bird sanctuaries.
Santee Wildlife Refuge is well known for its diversity of bird life and abundant public opportunities to enjoy wildlife observation, education, interpretation, photography, hunting and fishing. The four units of the Refuge offers a Visitors Center, a 7.5-mile wildlife drive, a canoe trail through a proposed wilderness area, observation towers, miles of hiking/biking trails, elevated boardwalks, towers and some of the best bird watching in America. The Santee Christmas Bird Count is touted as one of the best, if not the best, inland CBC east of the Mississippi and north of Florida.
Withstanding the test of time, the refuge harbors an Indian Mound, built over 1,000 years ago by the native Santee tribe. During the Revolutionary War, it was transformed into Fort Watson, a British battlement overtaken by the “Patriot”, General Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, in one of the most pivotal victories of the American struggle for independence.