Walk the Sewee Shell Loop

By:Marie McAden


It’s called the Sewee Shell Mound Interpretive Trail, but this breezy one-mile nature walk in takes you past two very different Indian shell mounds — one made of clams, the other of oysters.

Also known as middens, these circular knolls are the refuse of ancient inhabitants who simply dumped their dinner scraps and broken pottery outside their village. Or at least that’s the theory. No one really knows, which is what makes the rings so fascinating.

The clam ring was created by Indians who lived in these parts 600 years ago. The oyster ring is much bigger and older. The last in a long chain of shell rings from Florida to South Carolina, this midden is three to 10 feet high and measures about 225 feet across. The open center plaza was 75 to 100 feet wide.

Prehistoric Indians who lived along the South Carolina coast created the ring with their oyster shell discards more than 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists believe the ring was used as a central gathering place for ceremonies and annual feasts.

The shells and other debris might have simply accumulated in and around the homes arranged in a circular compound. It’s also possible they were deliberately piled up as part of a ritual feasting. Either way, they were probably abandoned because of rising tides.

A 120-foot boardwalk overlooks the prehistoric oyster shell mound and the surrounding salt marsh and tidal creek. This breathtaking vista alone is worth the mile-long walk.

To get to the trail from Charleston, take U.S. 17 North to Doar Road North. Turn right and drive 2.1 miles to Salt Pond Road. Take another right and go .1 mile to the trailhead.

For more information on the Sewee Shell Mound Interpretive Trail, visit the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center or call (843) 928-3368.

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