More than 680 acres of undeveloped woodlands, fields and significant wetlands along the Wateree River just outside the city of Camden are now conserved, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Bramblewood LLC, the Congaree Land Trust (CLT) and the S.C. Conservation Bank. The property’s valuable open space, watershed and wildlife habitat along the Wateree River are now permanently protected from development in an increasingly urbanized area of the state.
“With growth and development booming in places like Camden, it makes land conservation more challenging, so we’re very thankful to landowners like the Bramblewood group for securing a conservation easement, which helps protect our vital resources from becoming urban sprawl,” CLT Executive Director Stuart White said in a press release. “Bramblewood’s proximity to existing conserved properties in Kershaw County creates a noteworthy block of protected land at the landscape level.”
Located on the east bank of the Wateree River, Bramblewood joins the Cowasee Basin Focus Area, an important collaborative landscape conservation project to protect 315,000 acres along the Wateree, Congaree and Santee rivers, which contain some of the most significant natural, cultural and historical resources in South Carolina. The property is also situated in the Wateree River Conservation Corridor (WRCC), a 40-mile stretch of undeveloped landscape along the Wateree River from Camden south to the confluence with the Congaree River. With nearly a mile of frontage along the east bank of the Wateree River, the property helps protect the riparian corridor of the Wateree. The property’s working timber and agriculture fields help filter road, yard and roof runoff water before entering the river, providing the public health benefit of clean water and filtered air.
With its size, setting and habitat diversity (including nearly 200 acres of diverse wetlands), Bramblewood supports an extensive variety of wildlife -- 40 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles of conservation concern by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. A remarkable 20-acre former rice field features a scattered over story of small pond cypress and water tupelo with a thick understory of hydric shrubs and woody plants supporting an array of wildlife. The diverse wetlands likely support foraging wood storks, a federally-listed threatened species, at certain times of the year, while the forested wetlands and creek bottom hardwoods provide prime breeding and migratory habitats for a wide variety of Neotropical migratory birds, many of which are declining. A rare and critically imperiled oak known to occur in only two counties in South Carolina -- the bottomland post oak -- can also be found on the property.
Bramblewood is also steeped in history. Prior to European contact, it was part of the paramount Native American chiefdom of Cofitachequi, a Mississippian-period native community whose culture and influence was widespread in South Carolina. In 1540, the first European expedition of the Southern interior, led by Hernando de Soto, came through the area to meet the influential Cofitachequi. Skirting the edge of Bramblewood is a noteworthy path that connected the backcountry to native territories, called “Catawba’s Path” at the north end and “Great Road to Charleston” at the south end. De Soto, and later, renowned explorers Juan Pardo and John Lawson, would follow that path en route to other Southern territories, while George Washington would have likely passed through during his famous Southern Tour. Bramblewood’s fertile bottomland soils supported cultivation of inland rice and indigo crops in the 19th century, while the river provided essential transport. For hundreds of years, Bramblewood has sustained a way of life fueled by the river, fertile swampland and bounty of wildlife tied to the land.
“Bramblewood has collaborated with historians, biologists and young wildlife enthusiasts, as it is a very special property for current owners, their families, and future generations,” long-time Bramblewood Farm Manager Ralph Cantey said. “The many different habitats encourage such a wide range of plants and animals which allow us all an opportunity to experience. Historical structures and written history allow us to walk in the past. The owners are keenly aware of the importance of conserving this unique place for the community and future generations.”
CLT Marketing and Communications Manager Erin Eisele said Bramblewood joins more than 1,500 acres (1,536.75 to be exact, she said) of natural and scenic lands conserved by CLT in Kershaw County, and 77,630 total acres conserved across 14 counties in central SC.
“But these places are more than acres, they define our way of life in central South Carolina,” Eisele said.
She added that CLT also offers the public ways to engage with the natural beauty of these lands through its Escapes programs, including Equestrian rides.
“CLT Escapes are day trips designed to connect our supporters and community to conserved areas in the Midlands through an array of activities,” Eisele said. “Whether kayaking through Sparkleberry Swamp, taking a wild edibles walk, birding and photography hikes, painting en plein air, or trail riding on an eased property, Escapes offer a chance to explore and experience the green heart of South Carolina, fostering a deeper understanding and connection to our land.”