A stone’s throw to the east from Stoney Creek, “the-old-place” as my family the Simmons call it, is another good watering hole on the May River with childhood memories — Rose Dhu Creek landing.
It’s off S.C. 46, where May River Plantation is now. There are moss laden, century old oak trees and beautiful homes with docks and water access. In earlier years, right up until the 1960’s, it was referred to as Rose Dhu Creek. Some of you “old-heads” will recall there was a small home joined to a pyramid shaped structure with a windmill atop it just east of the Rose Dhu Creek bridge at the head of a dirt road that lead half a mile down to the creek.
For years, Dan Cooler Sr., my grandfather, was the grounds keeper for the folks that owned the acreage. He’d have his small wooden bateau tied up to a tree overhanging the sloping bank at the creek and many a good seafood meal was supplied and enjoyed by him. He’d cast for a cache of shrimp he’d boil up in a black wash pot of salt water placed over a fire he kept stoked up on the bank. He’d cover the pot with moss off the trees to steam the shrimp. When oysters were in season, he would gather baskets of them to roast on supported sheets of tin over a crackling fire. The oysters would sizzle on the hot tin with the milk of the oyster oozing out of the shell when they were ready to open.
In gathering the oysters, granddaddy would oar along the bank at low tide. When he came on a good oyster bed, he’d drop anchor, hop out in knee-high rubber boots and hand pick his oysters. He used a wedge-shaped hammer to knock the ones he wanted loose without disturbing the whole clump, leaving some to grow larger.
In those days, the oyster shells left after a roasting were used in driveways or as a part of the drainage system in a grease trap or septic tank that was a common necessity in rural country homes. Now, there seems to be a shortage of oyster shells to use for planting purposes to sustain the oyster habitat that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources manages.
There are drop off bins for recycling oyster shell across the county. Visit website saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html to read up on the oyster recycling and restoration programs in Beaufort County; interesting facts on the oyster; drop-off locations; and listings of companies and organizations that lend support.
Oysters are healthy for our rivers. Adult oysters filter 2.5 gallons of water per hour or up to 50 gallons per day.
The locations for bins for oyster shells are:
▪ Beaufort bin at the Beaufort County Public Works site on Shanklin Road off S.C. 21 north of the Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station.
▪ Bluffton bin at Trask Landing located off U.S. 278 down Sawmill Creek Road.
▪ Hilton Head bin at the Coastal Discovery Museum at 70 Honey Horn Drive.
▪ Port Royal bin at the Sands Beach Boat Landing down Paris Avenue behind Port Royal Town Hall on 7th Street.
▪ Lemon Island bin at the Edgar Glenn Boat Landing at the Chechessee River Bridge on S.C. 170.
▪ Hunting Island bin at Russ Point on S.C. 21
▪ St. Helena/Lady’s Island bin at the St. Helena Recycling and Convenience Center.
I prefer sticking with the old saying of eating oysters during the months with an ‘R’ in them. That being said, our water temperatures are averaging in the mid 40’s now, perfect for those fresh, hand-picked oysters. If you’re not sure where you are allowed to pick, go to dnr.sc.gov/maps.html to find Marine-Recreational Shellfish Maps, then click on South Edisto-Savannah River to see locations in our area.
As keepers of our rivers, we need to assure the future oysters. Boaters need to slow their motors. We need to preserve our rivers by keeping them clean and recycle our oyster shells to provide a home for the spawned oyster larvae to latch on to and grow.
Contributor Jean Tanner is a lifetime rural resident of the Bluffton area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.