Between the suburban hubbub of Mount Pleasant and the maritime bustle of Georgetown, the miles along US 17 are strangely quiet. Just a handful of houses and stores break up the long miles of deep forest. It might make you wonder – where is everyone?
Though you might not realize it, this land is far from empty. The stretch you are driving through is some of the most ecologically rare and diverse in all of South Carolina, and is absolutely bursting with life that, in some cases, is seen almost nowhere else on earth.
To the west lies Francis Marion National Forest, home of carnivorous pitcher plants and Carolina Bays, a geologic and ecological mystery. To the east is the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, more than 66,000 acres of almost untouched marshes, estuaries and barrier islands.
Sitting on the border between this great, mysterious forest and breathtaking but impenetrable marshland is Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center.
Right off US 17 in Awendaw, the Sewee Center is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The center aims to teach the public about the forest and refuge, about the rare plants and animals that live there and about the fragile and unusual geologic features of the area.
They do this in lots of ways. A movie in the center’s auditorium introduces visitors to the area. Interactive displays and touch tables let visitors get their hands on what makes the area so important. Reptile tanks filled with turtles, terrapins and baby alligators bring the animal life inside. Short nature walks outside let visitors see the beauty of the area up close. A full schedule of classes, activities and lectures let visitors learn more in depth about this remarkable area.
Perhaps the most popular exhibit at Sewee is out back, down a lovely quarter mile boardwalk trail through the woods to an outdoor enclosure that is home to four very rare and highly endangered red wolves. The best time to visit to see the wolves is at 3 p.m. on Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, when an educational program is offered to visitors as the wolves are being fed.
But perhaps the best reason to visit Sewee is to talk to the dedicated staff and volunteers who work there. Their love for this wild and beautiful world cannot be missed. They are overflowing with knowledge on the best hiking trails, the best places to canoe or kayak, the best fishing holes – anything you need to know to explore and enjoy the area. They are the best source of information on how to explore and enjoy these rare, remarkable, and little-seen ecosystems hiding in plain sight as you fly down the highway.
Find more information about Sewee and an up-to-date listing of all programs here.