Land and water, people and place
Nature’s good neighbor to Colleton River Club is the 977-acre Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area. Managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, this nature sanctuary offers loop hiking and bicycle trails.
- Maritime (“near the sea”) forests shaded by Live oaks and Sabal palmetto trees.
- Watch for pond spice, an endangered shrub bordering low areas.
- Wild turkey, migratory songbirds and white-tailed deer abound. Bring your binoculars! Parking access: Colleton River Drive near Bayley Road.
In the late 1920’s Harry Cram acquired Foot Point, the approximate acreage of the present- day Colleton River Club. At this location, he built a family home and constructed this impoundment named Lucy’s Lake, remembering his wife Lucy Cram. This freshwater body is fed by rainfall, overland flow, and groundwater seepage. Water flows over a spillway and into the tidal marsh at the far lower end of the lake. Watch this habitat for egrets and herons wading in the shoals, anhingas and cormorants diving for fish.
This pond is a bustling breeding colony or “rookery” of wading birds, during the Spring and Summer. Here, egrets, herons, white ibis, and perhaps rare wood storks nest close together for mutual protection against predators. In Spring, parent birds build platform nests of interlaced twigs, leaves and Spanish moss, often under shelter of shading foliage. Late Spring’s hatchlings demand regular feedings. In the ravenous contest for dinner, a young bird may nudge a sibling out of the nest. Rookery life is survival of the fittest!
Do you like a good mystery? From the Nicklaus Clubhouse parking lot, follow the cart path leading to the Par-3 Course. Now, gaze across the wide tideland to the west. Notice standing skeletons of weathered red cedar trees: nature’s Boneyard. A favorite nesting site for bald eagles, the trees remain like the bones of a lowland forest that somehow perished many decades ago. Perhaps this once was a freshwater impoundment used for rice cultivation or duck hunting, and it was breached and flooded by saltwater in a hurricane. What’s your guess?
This manmade habitat is named for the bufflehead duck, one of several migratory waterfowl species that visit Colleton River Club during the Winter. Here, the bufflehead may dive underwater and capture a small fish, crab, or insect. Spring and Summer, you may see wading birds here, hunting food to carry back to their chicks in the nesting rookery. An osprey may circle overhead, then plunge feet-first into the lake to snare a fish. The anhinga, long-necked and sharp billed, may be waiting on an overhanging limb to spear finny quarry.
Colleton River is named for Sir John Colleton (1608-1666) who served as a Lord Proprietor (governor) of this area of the British Carolina Province. In 1663, he introduced settlers and slaves to colonize this area. King Charles II granted him 12,000 acres, including lands and waters of present-day Colleton River Plantation. Over 4,000 years before English colonization, the Colleton River and its tributaries were the homeland for the Coosa (means “water”) Indians, a fishing, hunting and farming culture. The wide Colleton River, its sinuous marsh creeks and its river islands have always provided food, shelter, and safe passage for diverse cultures. You can follow their ancient wakes from the Community Dock, where you can launch a kayak into this River Through Time.
Namesake of this community, Colleton River is a 7-mile reach of tidewater that flows into the great Chechessee River- Broad River-Port Royal Sound basin leading to the Atlantic Ocean 10 miles from here. Spring Island lies across the water. To the right, view the Chechessee River and low-lying uninhabited Rose Island, almost due north of the dock. Beyond lies the vast Broad River. Low tide exposes the fertile salt marsh- habitat for shrimp, fish, oysters and water birds. At high tide the river rises 6-8 feet. Watch for bottlenose dolphins, ospreys, gulls, terns and perhaps a bald eagle nesting in a weathered tree.
The largest freshwater lake in Colleton River Plantation Club provides an excellent opportunity for secluded recreational fishing and watching wildlife. This manmade lake is stocked with gamefish such as bass and crappie for the enjoyment of Colleton River Plantation Club members and guests. During part of the year, the lake may appear green. This is a result of maintenance fertilization by pond managers. The process increases small prey species consumed by the fish. Keep an eye out for a yellow-bellied turtle, osprey, white ibis or wood stork.
Jack Lightburn was a former slave. Before the 1930s he lived in a small house on the site of the present-day Dye Clubhouse. “Uncle Jack” was likely a tenant farmer (“sharecropper”) who cultivated cash crops such as cotton and vegetables and paid the owner with a portion of the harvest. Uncle Jack’s life was one of many chapters in the story of historic Colleton River Plantation.
Near the Pete Dye Clubhouse, visit the scenic grove of live oak trees along the fairway by Uncle Jack’s Lake. Live oaks are so-named because they keep their leaves almost all year and live for centuries. Stand under a live oak and look upward: the limbs twist, bend and reach outward in response to wind blowing off the river. Dense wooded and rot-resistant live oak timber was used for the ribs of Colonial warships such as “Old Ironsides”.
Lots of landscape sculpting created the 7,300-yard Pete Dye Golf Course. “Uncle Jack’s Lake” challenges golfers and provides a scenic freshwater pond. Cross the footbridge to the small island shaded with majestic live oaks. Watch for colorful birds and other wildlife in the still waters and march where “Uncle Jack” lived.
The rear portico of the Dye Clubhouse faces northeast and offers a broad panorama of the wide Chechessee River- Port Royal Sound basin. On the railings, mounted plaques point to scenic islands and promontories. Bring your camera, enjoy refreshments and sit a spell.