The most overlooked adventures are always the ones closest to home. Many of us are guilty – including myself – of dreaming of far-off wild places like Tasmania or Nepal and forgetting about what is under our nose. It’s high time that we redirect our travel daydreaming to actually getting out and exploring closer to home in our own backyards. Recently I did just that and made the short drive into South Carolina’s lowcountry to explore Caw Caw Interpretive Center. This county park is just 17 miles from downtown Charleston, South Carolina – making for a great day trip to explore historical Charleston and explore the lowcountry’s unique ecosystems.
Exploring South Carolina’s Lowcountry – Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Caw Caw Interpretive Center spans over 600 acres and has a variety of self-guided trails and boardwalks that visitors are encouraged to explore at their own pace. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of rocking chairs and benches that were spread throughout the six miles of trails. It made for a relaxing pace to simply stop and rock for a while and enjoy the quiet of the nature around you.
The most prominent feature of Caw Caw’s landscape are the wetlands that have grown over former rice fields. These historic relics date back from the early 18th century and share the haunting story of slavery throughout America’s southern states. Today these areas have returned to a natural state hosting a great diversity of plant and animal species. Commonly seen species include bald eagle, egret, heron, river otter, and American alligator.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center’s Largest Residents – Alligators
During my warm winter visit to Caw Caw Interpretive Center the most spotted species was American alligators dotting the edges of each waterway. I observed nearly 30 different alligators, most were near the Waterfowl Trail that loops around one of the former rice fields. Always remember to observe wildlife from a safe and respectful distance, especially alligators. Typically, docile animals, alligators can become increasingly aggressive from human interference. If you see an alligator crossing or sunning on a trail, give them space and choose an alternate route. Harassing or feeding alligators is against state law and is obviously dangerous for you and the animals. Help to keep alligators wild and safe and give them the respect they deserve.
To learn more about alligators, read: How to Tell the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center’s Tallest Residents – Live Oak & Bald Cypress
The two main towering tree species that dot the landscape of Caw Caw are bald cypress and live oak trees. I especially enjoyed standing under the live oaks draped in Spanish moss near the intersection of the Habitat Loop and the Marshland Trail. Make sure to look closely, live oaks are known to host dozens of plants and animals that depend on the trees. Including resurrection fern found high above the ground on the oak’s limbs, named from its ability to nearly dry out and return with lush green leaves following a needed rain. I highly recommend strolling the Swamp Sanctuary Trail’s boardwalk to enjoy a water level view of massive bald cypress. These trees are best known for their knobby root extensions that stick out above the water. Called cypress knees, they are believed to help anchor the gigantic trees and provide needed oxygen to their deprived roots.
Get out and explore the natural spaces near your home!
To help preserve and protect the habitats of Caw Caw Interpretive Center does not permit dogs or bicycles on the property.
Be sure to visit the Charleston County Parks website for details on park amenities, fees, and hours.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
5200 Savannah Hwy.
Ravenel, SC 29470