Adventures abound at Donnelley Wildlife

Special to The Bluffton PacketJune 4, 2012 

  • Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is at 585 Donnelly Drive, Green Pond, and is an hour and fifteen minutes from Bluffton. Take U.S. 17 north and, just past the Route 303, turn off to Walterboro. You will see the entrance to Donnelley on your right. A kiosk and information station is at the gate and also half a mile inside the area. Admission is free, and the gates are open from dawn to dusk. Be sure to sign in when you arrive and pay close attention to signs within Donnelley to assist you with directions, parking and access. Details: 843-844-8957,

    At certain times of the year the management area and trails are closed for maintenance and hunting, so it is a good idea to plan ahead. Bring water, bug spray and a sense of adventure. Remember that a wildlife management area is for wildlife first and humans second. If you plan ahead, obey the rules and you will surely enjoy all that area has to offer.

    It's An Alligator's World at Donnelley Wildlife management area

    Donnelley WMA is particularly suited for alligator habitat, and at times hundreds of them can be spotted in the many swamps and freshwater impoundments.

    For anyone wishing to imagine life in the age of dinosaurs, the sight of hundreds of alligators cruising around in one of these ponds can be a heart-stopping event. However, always remember that the alligator is a predator and being in proximity to them is not something to be taken lightly.

    When you see an alligator you must never approach it. Stay in your car or on the trail and enjoy it from a distance. Since alligators often feed by ambush they can have a lightning fast attack and move very rapidly on land. Keep pets on a leash and children at a safe distance and under no circumstances should you attempt to feed an alligator.

    Obey these simple rules and your alligator experience in the wild will be memorable for all the right reasons.

The natural beauty of the Lowcountry is one of the main attractions to living here, and it is a gift that keeps on giving throughout a lifetime. One such place to experience the joy of the great outdoors is nearby Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. Even if you have never taken time to visit, you have likely passed it many times. Located on U.S. 17 almost exactly midway between Bluffton and Charleston it is an easy-to-reach paradise and one that offers access for whatever level of adventure you wish to enjoy.

Donnelley WMA was established in 1992 to manage an 8,000-acre tract in the heart of the ACE Basin. Donnelley contains remnants of several once-thriving plantations and embraces old rice fields, ancient swamp and wide, airy pine uplands. This unique diversity of ecosystems hosts an astounding variety of wildlife -- from migratory birds to turkey, deer and other game. Hunting is a main event at Donnelley and at times during the year the preserve is open for managed hunts of deer, turkey and other game.

One glimpse of the rich environment of Donnelley and you will easily see why this important and exciting pastime is so popular and necessary for the success of this land.

Recently a group of friends and I spent a Saturday there. We brought bicycles to explore the 10-mile loop of well-managed dirt roads and enjoyed hiking the nearly two miles of foot trails. On this sunny Saturday we came armed with cameras and enjoyed capturing shots of wildlife and the unique Lowcountry landscape that Donnelley provided. We enjoyed ringing in the Carolina springtime in the great outdoors -- amazed at such accessible beauty so close to home. No matter your level of experience, a short drive from Bluffton will net you an enjoyable hour -- or full day -- in the wild. Whether participating in a hunt, hiking a path or just viewing from your car, Donnelley will bring the wildlife and beauty of the ACE Basin right to you.

Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to and search on the username "greenkayak73." He can be reached at

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