ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife abounds in this Lowcountry sanctuary.

The Grove Plantation House
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge is home to a vast array of waterfowl, fish, shellfish and many other animals. It is also the home of Oak Grove Plantation House. Since 1992, the former rice plantation has been under the protection of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

According to the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge’s website:

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge helps protect the largest undeveloped estuary along the Atlantic Coast, with rich bottomland hardwoods and fresh and saltwater marsh offering food and cover to a variety of wildlife.  ACE Basin stands for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers, which form the estuary and parts of the Refuge boundary. The entire basin encompasses more than 350,000 acres, of which the Refuge comprises just less than 12,000 acres.

wood stork

Part of the historical values of the ACE Basin were also protected. The refuge office, a former rice plantation house built in 1828, is one of a few antebellum mansions that survived the civil war in the ACE Basin area. Former owners ensured it would be preserved by placing it on the National Register of Historical Places. Undeveloped and unpolluted, the habitat remains diverse and extremely productive.

oak grove plantation house exterior
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The Oak Grove Plantation House

The Oak Grove Plantation House is a fine example of late-Federal plantation-style architecture. It has polygonal rooms and projecting symmetrical bays. The elliptical fanlight over the front entry, double-hung windows, clapboard siding, and overall symmetry are all examples of this architectural style.

From the early 1700s to the mid-1800s, the plantation grew rice, producing much wealth. After the rice culture declined in the late 1800s, the plantation and many others in the area were used as hunting retreats. The area was tended wisely to preserve and protect the wildlife.

former rice fields at the refuge
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

A walk behind the house leads visitors to the former rice fields. Rows, dikes, trunks, and gates are still visible today. The paths are marked and meander around the rice fields and through wooded areas. Make sure to bring your camera and be on the lookout for wildlife.

rice trunk
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Rice Trunks

This is one of many rice trunks still in use today. Irrigation of rice fields was completed using great ingenuity to raise and lower water levels in the fields.

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia:

The rice trunk was an ingenious, yet simple apparatus that made large-scale planting and irrigation control possible in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Rice trunks are wooden sluices installed in “banks” or dikes of rice fields for irrigation or flood control. They are long, narrow, wooden boxes made of thick planks, and each has a door at each end. Hung on uprights, the swinging doors, called gates, may be raised or lowered to drain or flood a field. When the gate on the river end of a trunk is raised, the water in the field runs into the river at low tide. As the tide turns, the rising water exerts pressure on the river gate and swings it tightly shut, preventing water from returning to the field. To flood the field, the process is reversed.

Rice, a particularly labor-intensive crop, was dependent on slaves for its cultivation. Following Emancipation, the rice industry collapsed.

marsh at the refuge
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin has long been known for its tremendous diversity of wildlife. The intricate network of marshes, tidal creeks, uplands, and wetlands has supported a myriad of plants and animals. The ACE Basin has long been home to a vast array of waterfowl, songbirds, fish, shellfish, and upland animals. Alligators, wood storks, bobcats, deer, and other animals live in the diverse habitats of the refuge.

view of a path in the refuge
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The refuge grounds are open daily, from sunrise to sunset.  The Administration Office is generally open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Brochures and maps are located on the ground floor of the Plantation House.

For more information on the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge visit their WEBSITE.

For more information on what to do in the Edisto Island area visit or day trip information visit .

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The Lowcountry & Resort Islands Region of South Carolina includes the four, southern-most counties in the state, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton, which are bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Savannah River and the state of Georgia.

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