Edisto River

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Edisto River Basin

Project Overview

The Edisto, first named by the native Americans who lived beside it, is one of the longest free flowing blackwater rivers in the United States. Embraced by moss-draped cypress trees, its clean amber waters wind 250 miles through the diverse rural landscapes and economies of the South Carolina coastal plain.

The Edisto River Basin Task Force, assembled to create and implement a plan for sustainable management and development of the basin's resources, represents a diverse cross section of people who live and work in a 12 county area that contains the 3,120 square mile Edisto watershed. In 1996, the task force and its 15 committees (nearly 200 basin citizens) concluded an extensive resource assessment and planning process that recognized the significance of the Edisto River Basin and the importance of sustaining the area's natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of the local community and economy.

The task force is currently seeking to implement the goals and recommendations developed through their multi-year basinwide planning process. The goals and recommendations are published in the 1996 report entitled Managing Resources for a Sustainable Future: The Edisto River Basin Project Report.

Through their planning process the task force developed a community- based vision for sustainable environmental management and economic development in the Edisto River Basin. They developed goals and objectives for improving the economy and conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the basin. They assessed the basin's resources and produced maps that display the relative significance and/or suitability of areas for various economic uses, ecological functions, recreational activities, and cultural resources. To support these planning efforts a geographic information system with a comprehensive data base was created for the Edisto Basin and studies were conducted to determine socioeconomic and ecological conditions in the basin.

The level of information that has been created in the Edisto River Basin far exceeds what is available in most other regions of the country. This information combined with the community based plan make the Edisto River Basin a place of real opportunity to implement sustainable development practices that will improve the quality of life for the local citizens and conserve a great natural and cultural resource area.

Vision for the Edisto River Basin

The Edisto River Basin Task Force, representing the diversity of citizens and interests from the region, is promoting the following vision for the Edisto River Basin.

The Edisto River Basin is one of the few remaining blackwater stream ecosystems in the United States that is in good condition; the basin sustains a diverse rural landscape and economy; and the people living in the basin have strong ties to the land and small town communities. In these and other ways the Edisto Basin represents the rural South at its best. As such, the Edisto River Basin is a resource of great value. The basin should be managed as an important natural and cultural resource area for present and future generations, where the local economy is enhanced for the needs of local citizens and development proceeds in a way that respects and preserves the natural and cultural character of the area.

Goals and objectives for enhancing the local economy and conserving the natural and cultural character of the Edisto River Basin are expressed in 176 recommendations developed by the task force and its committees and published in the Edisto River Basin Project Report. Most of the recommendations address specific management issues and objectives related to either economic development, forestry, agriculture, tourism, wildlife and fisheries habitat, sensitive species, water resources, recreational boating, hunting, fishing, or cultural resources. The major themes that flow throughout the recommendations of the task force are as follows:

  • Promote enhancement of the local economy by marketing and adding value to the products of existing manufacturing, forestry, and agricultural industries; developing both nature-based and heritage-based tourism opportunities; and improving infrastructure within areas identified as having high growth potential.
  • Promote conservation and wise management of riparian and river habitats to sustain biological diversity, water quality, forest production, recreation activities, and aesthetic values.
  • Promote conservation and wise management of the rural landscape, the forests, wetlands, habitats, farmlands, and historical and archaeological resources to sustain and enhance the basin's ecological, cultural, and aesthetic values, as well as the rural economy.
  • Accomplish the desired conservation and economic development objectives through the following means:
    • Create partnerships and cooperative projects among public and private entities.
    • Provide education, technical assistance, and improved access to information for decision makers and the public.
    • Encourage local planning and local decision making.
    • Develop guidelines or best-management-practices for all types of land use and development activities to encourage conservation of natural and cultural resources values.
    • Develop financial incentives to encourage conservation practices for natural and cultural resources, avoid regulations.
    • Provide up-to-date information and analysis.

Project Reports & Information Products

The reports and information products produced for the Edisto River Basin Project are listed and described below. For more information or to receive a copy, contact us at (803) 734-9100

  • Managing Resources for a Sustainable Future: The Edisto River Basin Project Report - This document, published in October 1996, is the culmination of more than two years of hard work and dedication of the many citizens involved in the Edisto Project. This report details the methods and maps used int he evaluation of the basin's natural, cultural, and economic resources. It also contains resources management recommendations -- a vision for the future of the Edisto River Basin.
  • Assessing Change in the Edisto River Basin: An Ecological Characterization - This publication provides a detailed description of landscape-level (basinwide) ecological conditions of the Edisto watershed. Published in October 1993, this 150 page report analyzes and evaluates land use and land cover, hydrology, water quality, and biological diversity. Applying principles of landscape ecology to assess the cumulative effects of human development activities on natural resources is the central concept of this study. Several indicators of landscape ecological integrity were evaluated. They include: (1) forest and native vegetation loss, (2) forest patch pattern, (3) stream-edge habitat condition, (4) water quality in the streams, (5) stability of stream hydrology, (6) balanced native populations of animals and natural areas. A synthesis of findings from the study as well as recommendations for improving ecological conditions in the Edisto River Basin are provided.
  • Grants, Technical Assistance and Incentive Programs: A Guidebook for the Edisto River Basin Project - This document, published in 1996, provides an overview of monetary aid programs and technical assistance available to communities, individuals, landowners, governments, and business persons. This publication was created as a tool to assist individuals and entities throughout the Edisto Basin with the implementation of recommendations resulting from the Edisto Project. However, the information provided here has applicability beyond the Edisto Project. Individuals and entities throughout the state will be able to use this guidebook to identify programs or organizations that could assist them in a variety of ways.
  • Video of Edisto River Basin Project slide show - This slideshow was produced in late 1993, at the outset of the Edisto River Basin Project. It provides an overview of the Edisto River Basin and its resources in the words of many of the basin's residents. It also summarizes the goals of the evaluation and planning project.
  • Fishes of the Edisto River Basin - This 1995 report summarizes all of the available fish population data and fishery information collected to date in the Edisto River Basin and estuary. It includes a bibliography of both freshwater and saltwater fisheries references specific to the Edisto, adjacent river basins, and selected related fisheries references in South Carolina pertinent to the species occurring in the Edisto River Basin. The report also includes the historical sampling locations and descriptions for both freshwater and saltwater fisheries studies and surveys and a historical listing of freshwater and saltwater fish species occurring in the Basin and estuary.
  • Digital atlas on CD-ROM - This digital atlas includes the resource assessment maps of the Edisto Basin developed by the project's expert committees. Also contained on the CD are the criteria used to create the maps and an overview of the assessment process.
  • Digital cartographic data on the internet - The original 1:24:000 scale wetlands/land use, soils, and digital line graphs data that were used in the Edisto River Basin Project can be accessed in an ARC export format through the SCDNR's GIS Data Clearinghouse

Friends of the Edisto

Recreational Access

The Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail is comprised of 56 miles of the meandering blackwater river. Five boat landings offering easy public access exist along the trail and are designated by a sign. Found along the trail are two of South Carolina's state parks: Colleton and Givhan's Ferry. Both offer camping and picnicking.The Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail Commission (ERCK) has produced a brochure that provides a map and other information about river trail. For information or a copy of the brochure, contact Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce at (843) 549-9595.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources - Phone Numbers | Accessibility
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