On a crisp, clear fall day, the sounds of the forest come at you in full force. The breeze rustles dry leaves and whispers through tall pines. The conversation of birds can be heard among thickets of myrtles. In the unencumbered air, it seems as if you can even hear the very sunlight reaching through to the forest floor in one last embrace of summer's memory before the chilly Lowcountry winter begins.
One such place to experience this cacophony of noisy elements is nearby Webb Wildlife Management Area. Located about an hour from Bluffton, this 5,866-acre wildlife preserve and game management area embraces a swath of historic undeveloped land along the Savannah River. From airy pine and hardwood uplands to wide stretches of swampy river bottomland, Webb WMA offers visitors an opportunity to experience a wide variety of Carolina landscape and glimpse wildlife thriving in their own habitat. The Reserve is popular with explorers, hunters and has been designated as an "Important Bird Area" in South Carolina by the Audubon Society. Truly there is something here for everyone.
The land for Webb WMA was acquired in 1941. Until then it had been a working horse farm and rich plantation land before that. The centerpiece of the old property is a Gilded-Age house that now serves as a hunting lodge and the preserve's headquarters. A stately avenue of oaks greets you as you arrive and this quickly leads you into the landscape where 40 miles of quiet dirt roads and forest paths await. Two alligator-filled "oxbow" lakes provide excellent fishing and a fun daytrip for kayak or canoe. A two-mile hiking trail strikes out into the river bottom to guide you among giant cypress and tupelo to the very banks of the Savannah. Along the way you may spot migratory and native birds such as the swallow-tailed kite, prothonotary warbler, painted bunting and even the extremely rare red-cockaded woodpecker.
Recently a group of friends and I visited Webb WMA. While exploring the land we discovered old cemeteries and evidence of past settlement. Wildlife abounded, and sights of deer, turkey and fox squirrel became routine. A walk to the river and back made for a fine day and one we will soon repeat. No matter what time of year you visit Webb Wildlife Management Area, you will surely find adventure and will be eager to return in a different season to rediscover it all again.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username "greenkayak73." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.