Nestled into the South Carolina Lowcountry, between Charleston and Savannah, lies one of the largest waterfront properties on the east coast. Situated on 20,000 acres, Palmetto Bluff, a residential resort community in Bluffton, looks out over centuries-old live oak trees, primeval estuaries and 32 miles of river coastline at the confluence of the May, Cooper and New Rivers. This wildly beautiful landscape has been pristinely maintained as both a true Southern escape for travelers and residents and an active conservancy for hundreds of plant, bird and marine species.
In 2003, the non-profit Conservancy at Palmetto Bluff was founded with a mission of “protecting the lush maritime forests and winding tidal creeks that defined the spectacular geography of the land.” Led by Director Jay Walea, who spent his youth exploring, hunting and drawing inspiration from the verdant forests of the Bluff, the Conservancy team works tirelessly to ensure that development and natural environments can coexist in harmony.
With a dedication to protecting and increasing their understanding of the Lowcountry environment, the Conservancy cares for the large number of resident and migratory animals in the area by ensuring their habitat remains healthy and intact. Ecological work by the Conservancy team involves a number of research initiatives, including surveying alligator, turtle and white-tailed deer populations, studying the nesting screech owls and monitoring the majestic but delicate patterns of bald eagles.
Residents and guests are invited to participate through tours, workshops and field trips designed to make the learning and monitoring process fun and easy. Environmental education classes teach participants about the area's delicate ecosystems, and citizen-scientists are invited to help researchers track and collect data on the local animal inhabitants, including the brilliantly adorned eastern bluebird.
Under the guidance of on-site archaeologist Dr. Mary Socci, fascinating artifacts have also been discovered, revealing details about the area's previous occupants. The oldest objects date back to 10,000 B.C. Following these early visitors, generations of Native Americans came to The Bluff to harvest mollusks and fish in the rivers and gather in the forests. Archeologists have found oysters shells, bones, stone tools and fragments of clay pots, many of which are on display at the Palmetto Bluff History Center. The on-site museum helps put these finds in context with timelines, maps and miniature exhibits. There is also a rotating history display in the Conservancy Reading Room in Moreland Village. Both facilities are free and open to the public.
Through the efforts of the Conservancy, visitors to Palmetto Bluff can experience the same beauty and scenery that previous travelers have enjoyed on this land over the centuries.