In June 2001, the Georgetown County Historical Society, the Coastal Conservation League and several riparian landowners requested the SCDNR to seek State Scenic River designation for the Great Pee Dee River. In 2002, the governor signed a bill designating approximately 70 miles of the Great Pee Dee as a Scenic River from the US Highway 378 Bridge between Florence and Marion Counties to the US Highway 17 Bridge at Winyah Bay.
The Great Pee Dee is large and wild. Most of the land bordering the river is floodplain forest. The corridor is a 70-mile by 3-mile swath of high quality wildlife habitat, boasting 120 species of fish, at least 25 rare plant species, several endangered and threatened species (including the American alligator, red-cockaded woodpecker, bald eagle and swallow-tailed kite), 17 species of duck (all but the wood duck are migratory visitors), a number of wading birds and fur bearing species, and typical South Carolina game species, such as white tail deer and turkey.
River travelers will notice a distinct change in the Great Pee Dee’s character as they go from the US 378 Bridge to Winyah Bay. Cypress-tupelo and bottomland hardwood forests, with hairpin meanders, sandy point bars and many interconnected oxbow lakes surround the upper portions of the river. Abandoned channels of the river, often called “lakes” (e.g., Jordan Lake, Thomas Lake), can be explored in small boats. Below the confluence with the Little Pee Dee (another adjoining State Scenic River), the sandy point bars and banks disappear. The surrounding forest becomes tidal swamp. The main forest species are still present, but some, like the swamp and black willows that dominate sandy banks upstream, vanish completely. A final transition happens below Thoroughfare Creek, where the freshwater tidal marshes, once cultivated as part of antebellum rice plantations, begin to displace the tidal swamp forest.
Leadership for State Scenic River projects comes from local citizens who serve on associated Scenic River Advisory Councils. The Department of Natural Resources has merged the management of two adjoining State Scenic Rivers, the lower Little Pee Dee and the Great Pee Dee, into one project with one functioning advisory council to assist and advise in the management of these two rivers. The combined advisory council is called the “Pee Dee Scenic River Advisory Council” and includes members representing river-bordering landowners, rivers users, and community interests associated with both scenic rivers.
The first major task of the advisory council is the creation of a scenic river management plan. The plan is created with citizen input to identify community goals for the river, define issues of concern, and recommend actions to achieve a common vision for the river. Once the management plan is completed it becomes the guide for ongoing activities of the advisory council.
Pee Dee Scenic River Advisory Council Members:
- Philip Adams: landowner
- Ron Charlton: Georgetown County Council
- Linda Croyle: Georgetown County Historical Society, landowner
- Chuck Harrell: RMS/Red Mountain Timber, landowner
- Mark H. King: landowner
- Frank Oliver: Wildlife Action
- Robert Schofield: landowner
- Bill Marshall: SCDNR
- Nancy Cave: Coastal Conservation League
- Christine Ellis: Waccamaw River Keeper
- Ray Funnye: Georgetown County
- Daniel Hitchcock: Baruch Institute, Clemson University
- James W. "Billy" King: landowner
- Amanda Ley: SCDHEC
- Susan Libes: Coastal Carolina University
- Coleman C. "Bud" Owens: landowner
- Giles Page: river guide
- Deanna Ruth: SC DNR, Samworth WMA
- M. Craig Sasser: US Fish and Wildlife Service/landowner
- Maria Whitehead: The Nature Conservancy
- Deryl Young: landowner
Recreation & Access
The entire 70-mile scenic river segment is navigable (free enough to be traveled upon by a small vessel) and may be accessed at eight public boat landings dispersed along its length. The lower sections of the river are used by large powerboats. Small powerboats and canoes are commonly used to navigate the narrow abandoned channels and oxbow lakes. Opportunities for multi-day canoe-camping trips are available during normal to low water conditions when the large sand bars along the upper portions of the river offer camping sites.
The fishing opportunities in the Great Pee Dee River and its connected lakes include largemouth bass, bluegill and other sunfish, crappie, perch and catfish. The lower portion of the river also includes several saltwater species. A mercury advisory is in effect for largemouth bass and bowfin caught in the Great Pee Dee Scenic River. The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control recommends that a healthy adult consume no more than half a pound of these fish (one meal) a month. For the latest fish consumption advisories for the Great Pee Dee and other water bodies, see DHEC's fish consumption advisory page.
Allisons Landing (sometimes called Ellisons Landing or Poston Landing) is found in Florence Co., about four river miles below the US 378 bridge. Follow county road 44 from the intersection of US 378 and SR 41/51 1.7 miles and turn left at the sign for the landing.
Dunham Bluff is found in Marion Co., about ten river miles below the US 378 bridge. Traveling east on US 378, make a right onto Dunham Bluff Road, which is at the intersection of US 378 and SR 908 (opposite the locally famous Park n' Blow). The landing is at the end of the road, about a mile and a half from US 378.
Staple Lake Landing is found in Williamsburg Co., about 19 river miles below the US 378 bridge. The landing itself is on an abandoned side channel that is about 200 yards off the river. From Hemingway, take SR 261 east about five miles to the intersection with County Line Road (at Outland). Make a left on County line road. At the Jerusalem AME Church, the paved road veers off to the right, but continue straight ahead on the unpaved road to the landing.
Port Hill Landing is found in Georgetown Co., about 25 river miles below the US 378 bridge. From SR 261 near Outland, take county road 55 about 4.5 miles to county road 753 (there is a sign for the landing). Make a left and follow the road to the end. This landing has extremely limited parking opportunities, and is unusable to all but canoes and other small boats at low water levels.
Petersfield Landing is found in Georgetown Co., about 29 river miles below the US 378 bridge. Take county road 36 (Old Pee Dee Road) from Yauhannah (at the intersection of US 701 and SR 261) about six miles to the access road for Petersfield (road 36 veers off to the left). Follow the access road to the end.
The Tan Yard is found in Marion Co., about 36 river miles below the US 378 bridge, about half a river mile above the confluence with the Little Pee Dee River. The road to this unimproved dirt landing is impassable when either river is flooding. The long, unpaved access road to the Tan Yard intersects with US 378 near the intersection with SR 908. Inquire locally about road conditions before using this landing.
Yauhannah Landing (sometimes called the 701 Landing) is found in Horry Co., at the base of the US 701 bridge. From Conway, take US 701 toward Georgetown. Just before the bridge, make a right turn on the landing's access road. This landing is about 41.5 river miles below the US 378 bridge, and 28.5 river miles above Winyah Bay.
Samworth Wildlife Management Area Landing is found in Georgetown Co., about 10 river miles above Winyah Bay. Take US 701 from Georgetown toward Conway. After crossing the bridge over the Black River, make the first right onto county road 52. Follow road 52 about five miles and turn right at signs for the Samworth WMA. The Dirleton Plantation house will be toward the right, and the boat ramp will be toward the left.
No other landings are found on the scenic portion of the Great Pee Dee below Samworth. The East Bay Street Landing in the City of Georgetown may be useful to boaters on the Great Pee Dee River, however. It is downtown, just above the mouth of the Sampit River.
For more information on the Great Pee Dee Scenic River project, contact:
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202
Telephone: (803) 734-9096