Botany Bay Beach Access to Remain Closed
Editor's note: As of July 15, 2017, access to Botany Bay’s beach has reopened. The southern end of the beach will remain closed until August 1 to protect nesting shorebirds. Due to severe erosion from Hurricane Matthew, conditions at the beach have changed dramatically and visitors will need to exercise extreme caution at all times. The entire beach at Botany Bay is now inaccessible for several hours on either side of high tide. During this time, waves reach up to the tree line, blocking access to the beach. For more information about the property click here.
Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve/WMA will reopen on Thursday, October 27, 2016 – but access to the remarkable beach that attracts many of the property’s yearly visitors will remain closed.
Hurricane Matthew spiraled through coastal South Carolina two weeks ago, making landfall north of Charleston as a Category 1 storm. As reports of damage began to surface from the coast, it became clear that Edisto Beach and the surrounding island had been hit particularly hard. Widely circulated images showed several feet of sand blanketing Palmetto Boulevard, turning the community’s main road into beach.
Two miles up the coast of Edisto Island, the shoreline was similarly flattened and eroded at Botany Bay Plantation, whose iconic boneyard beach has become a popular destination for wildlife watchers, photographers, and sunbathers.
Now, visitors will have to explore other parts of the SCDNR-managed property. Hurricane Matthew destroyed the bridge that provides access from the parking lot to the half-mile footpath leading to the beach. The bridge spans a deep, oyster-filled channel and was the only access point for reaching the beach. Beach access will remain closed until the bridge is rebuilt.
As a Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, SCDNR manages Botany Bay for two primary purposes – to protect the property’s unique cultural and natural resources, and to provide for compatible public recreation such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching by the citizens and visitors of South Carolina.
“The good news is that the upland forest is intact,” said wildlife coordinator Dean Harrigal. Not just at Botany, but at many other coastal SCDNR properties, “we’ve got trees down, but it’s nothing compared to Hugo.” Botany’s upland forest is home to a unique community of plants and animals, including a wealth of reptile and bird species, game such as white-tailed deer and dove, and even rare fox squirrels.
Other good news: having come at the tail end of a record nesting season, a minimal number of sea turtle nests were lost along the beach. The storm also spared the property’s historic structures. No damage was reported to the the remnant outbuildings of Bleak Hall, one of two former cotton-producing plantations that make up Botany’s present acreage.
After extensive clean-up efforts by staff, volunteers, and the Edisto Island community, Botany has been cleared to reopen next week. The property’s remaining deer and youth dove hunts will continue as scheduled.
While Botany’s beach access remains closed, visitors can get to know the property’s many other natural and cultural resources. A driving trail offers excellent wildlife viewing for those traveling by bike, horseback, or vehicle. Saltwater fish abound at Jason’s Lake, a catch-and-release fishing spot for youth anglers and accompanying adults. The icehouse and gardener’s shed, two of the historic outbuildings, provide a beautiful backdrop for a photography or history lesson.
Before you visit the property, make sure to check the regulations and closures here.
Signs noting the beach access closure will be posted at the property’s entrance, but we need help spreading the word.
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