Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hike & Bike the Pine Island Unit of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge


Pine Island is one of four management units of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge in Summerton, S.C. The refuge was established in 1941 and consists of approximately 13,000 acres that lie within the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

The Santee National Wildlife Refuge consists of four major units - Bluff Unit, Dingle Pond, Pine Island, Cuddo Unit. The refuge is made up of mixed hardwood and pine forests, freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, waterfowl impoundments, croplands, grassland fields and open water. The refuge protects 39 miles of shoreline along the northern side of Lake Marion that supports a wide range of wildlife.

Santee National Wildlife Refuge is one of 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to preserve a national network of lands and waters for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources of the United States for the benefit of present and future generations. The Refuge System encompasses over 150 million acres administered by the Fish & Wildlife Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Hailed as one of the best birding areas in South Carolina, the Santee National Wildlife Refuge is home to 296 bird species as well as 45 mammals, 54 reptiles, 35 amphibians and more than 100 fish species. The brilliantly colored painted bunting breeds and nests here during the summer months as do many other neo- tropical migratory songbirds.

The Pine Island Unit is very diverse, with wet, grassy fields, lakeside scrub, ponds, marshes, and oak-pine forest. Pine Island provides protection and habitat for American alligators, numerous species of wading birds, nesting bald eagles, several grassland bird species, and is home to thousands of wintering ducks, geese and swans.

In the Pine Island unit of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, you will find plenty of scenic dirt roads and trails suitable for hiking or off-road bicycling. You can observe the wildlife, and also see what is being done to attract and retain wild animals. Fishing and canoeing are permitted here also - but camping and swimming are not.

Habitat Management - Water levels in the refuge are manipulated to create optimum conditions for water birds, wintering waterfowl, and many resident and migratory species. Nest structures are provided for wood ducks and other species in areas lacking available natural cavities. Planting of supplemental crops along with periodic flooding of forested wetlands insures that adequate wildlife foods are available.

Refuge trails and grounds in Pine Island [Savannah Branch] are open daily from sunrise to sunset, from March through October - though it is best to swing by the main visitor center for more up to date schedules and information.

Visitor access on Pine Island is limited to either foot and bicycle traffic only on approximately four miles of trails. A primitive boat launch area is provided for small boats, canoes, and kayaks. A parking area for visitors is also provided.

Santee National Wildlife Refuge: Pine Island Unit on Lake Marion, S.C.

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