Riverkeepers take on the challenge of crossing boundaries and borders. They work with numerous government agencies and groups to promote and sustain their respective bodies of water and meet with, listen to, and educate and advocate to diverse publics.
Drive down any highway and eventually you’ll see a sign featuring a river’s name followed by the word “basin.” This is to let the public know that any activity to the environment within this area will impact this body of water.
Case in point is the Edisto River Basin. The Edisto River at 220-miles is the longest, free-flowing blackwater river in the America. The north and south forks of the river (know as sub-basins) form the upper basin in Edgefield and Saluda counties. Located in the regional tourism areas of Old 96 District and Lake Murray Country, both forks later join to form a single main river that meanders down to the coast. The river enters the Atlantic Ocean near the small community of Edisto Beach.
Some pretty amazing nature and outdoor experiences reside in the Edisto River Basin:
- The Gopher Heritage Preserve is downstream from Aiken State Park. Both are located in Thoroughbred Country.
- In Santee Cooper Country’s Orangeburg, the Edisto Memorial Garden showcases azaleas and award-winning roses. A highlight of the garden is a 2,600-ft. boardwalk built within tupelo and cypress wetlands along the edge of the river.
- The Bamberg Country Chamber of Commerce, in Thoroughbred Country, offers canoe/kayak trips on the south fork as well as on the main river. Held monthly from April to October, shuttle service is included.
- Colleton Sate Park, north of Walterboro, is the headquarters of the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. It serves as the departure point for a 23-mile float down to Givhans Ferry State Park near Ridgeville. Those looking to enjoy the river but not get wet can do so from the huge back porch of the park’s lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Both parks are located in the Lowcountry & Resort Islands region.
- The river continues to wind south past Edisto River Wildlife Management Area and its namesake town of Edisto. It travels through the ACE (Ashepoo Combahee Edisto) Basin National Wildlife Refuge and reaches the Atlantic near Edisto Beach State Park, one of the state’s most popular parks.
The non-profit Friends of the Edisto, known as FRED, was established to conserve the river’s natural resources and encourage sustainable economic development within its basin. FRED’s riverkeeper is tasked with engaging 12 counties to achieve these goals.
Because of its expanse, FRED breaks up its activities into the upper and lower river basins. While the average person may only be interested in details about organized paddling trips, river access for kayaking, canoeing or fishing or perhaps hunting, the resources available through this group are pretty astounding:
- Natural area and sensitive species
- Residential, commercial and industrial development
- Prehistoric site (probabilities) and historic sites
- Wildlife and fisheries habitat
- Recreational boating, fishing and hunting
- Hydrological units
When you consider the vast number of industries, wildlife habitats and people that impact the Edisto River, FRED plays a major role in protecting this important outdoor asset.
Other rivers in the state are also served by watershed organizations are the Broad, Catawba, Pee Dee, Salkehatchie, Saluda, Santee and Savannah.