Tom Yawkey, longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox, was also one of the largest land donors to the state of South Carolina. Yawkey's gift of 20,000 acres of land, one of the largest donations to wildlife conservation in United States history, was the foundation for the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center.
After inheriting propery along the Georgetown County shoreline in 1925, Tom and his wife Jean spent winters in South Carolina and developed a fondness for the community and its wildlife.
Yawkey was an avid outdoorsman and loved bird-watching. Through the years, he purchased surrounding properties and carefully managed the land with conservation as a priority.
Upon his passing, Yawkey donated all of his land to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He also established the Yawkey Foundation, a trust which manages an endowment that provides continual funding for the wildlife refuge.
The Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center now includes more than 24,000 acres of marshes, wetlands, forests and beaches. It is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and is a habitat for migratory birds, eagles, alligators and other endangered species. The beaches are considered excellent nesting locations for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle.
The area is bookended by Francis Marion National Forest to the west, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge to the east, Capers Island to the south and the Tom Yawkey Wildlife center to the north.
Hunting is not allowed on the land, but guided tours are available by reservation September through May on Tuesday and Wednesday only from 2-5 p.m. Tours are often booked months in advance.
The tours are not wheelchair accessible and there are no public facilities. You should bring your own drinking water and insect repellent.
Camping is allowed on certain beaches, which are accessible only by boat. Camping requires a permit that can be issued only by mail at least two weeks in advance. Campers can stay a maximum of four nights between Sept. 16 and May 14 and must take all their trash with them.
The Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center is one of the hidden gems of this already spectacular area.
Reach the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center at (843) 546-6814.
Learn more about Tom Yawkey, his legacy giving and his love of baseball on the Yawkey Foundation YouTube channel.