untouched beauty

Become one with nature.

Wildlife abounds in Santee Cooper Country, South Carolina. From wood ducks and catfish to white-tailed deer and spotted salamanders, you’re sure to spot some interesting wildlife here. We invite you to visit Santee Cooper Country and enjoy the natural world around you, whether you love fish, birds, or mammals.

Santee National Wildlife Refuge.

Santee National Wildlife Refuge is a must-see for any visitor to Santee Cooper Country. The refuge protects over 15,000 acres of public lands and over 500 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Due to the diverse habitats of wetlands and open water, as well as forests and fields, many species flourish in the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Head to the Visitor Center between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday to pick up maps and brochures.

If you forgot your binoculars at home, you’ll also be able to pick up a backpack for the day, complete with binoculars and field guides, and enjoy the nearly 40 miles of maintained trails in the refuge.

Are you a biker? Great! There are 13 miles of trails that can be used for both hiking and biking. Prefer hiking? Try any of the 13 miles of trails mentioned above that are multi-use, or there are 10 miles of trails just for hikers.

Don’t like either, or are you traveling with young kids or grandparents that might not be up for a hike or a bike ride? We also have you covered. There is a seven-and-a-half-mile auto tour route that gives you the opportunity to enjoy landscape views and many wildlife species from the comfort of your car.

Birdwatching at Santee National Wildlife Refuge

Santee National Wildlife Refuge is particularly great for those who love birds as it features nearly 300 bird species. Three birds you might particularly want to keep an eye out for are the painted bunting, the wood duck, and the wood stork.


Painted Bunting

Although somewhat in decline in the southeastern United States, painted buntings are numerous at Santee National Wildlife Refuge. They typically arrive at the refuge in mid-April to breed, and the grassy fields in the refuge support foraging for young fledglings and adults after they’ve bred.


Wood Ducks

Wood ducks flourish in the wetlands of the refuge. Staff has worked hard to provide nest boxes for them to use in lieu of tree cavities, which are in decline due to deforestation and development.

Staff has also developed a wood duck banding program, which is one of the most successful in the United States in terms of annual quota and birds banded. Over 22,000 wood ducks have been banded at the wildlife refuge.


Wood Storks

If you visit Santee National Wildlife Refuge, you may have the opportunity to see some wood storks, which are federally threatened. They often visit the shallow open ponds and wetlands, and you’re most likely to see them in summer and fall, although they’ve been spotted occasionally in the winter.