158. Francis Beidler Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina
One of two remaining old-growth tracts in South Carolina, featuring 1,000-year-old bald cypress trees and a 1.75-mile-long boardwalk.
Published: February 15, 2013
The heart of Beidler Forest, one of two remaining old-growth tracts in South Carolina, is its 1.75-mile boardwalk. Arguably the best in the country, it begins in hardwoods, then gives way to the soft light and velvet silence of 1,000-year-old bald cypress trees, a natural cathedral haunted by the Ivory-bills and Bachman’s Warblers that flew here when the trees were saplings. |
Today the forest is home to more than 2,000 pairs of Prothonotary Warblers, making it the easiest place in the country to see the “Golden Swamp Warbler.” Adding harmony and percussion to the warbler chorus may be the piercing scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk, the deep hooting of a Barred Owl, or the raucous wicker of a Pileated Woodpecker.
Although the bird list barely tops 150 species, one trip around the boardwalk will convince even the most jaded birder that Beidler is about quality, not quantity. The possibilities include Swainson’s Warblers lurking in dwarf palmetto, a Carolina Chickadee bringing caterpillars to a nest hole, and Wood Storks dropping into the lake while Swallow-tailed Kites flirt with openings in the shadowy canopy above. — Jim Burns
Jim Burns is a bird photographer and author. He described Canoe Creek Road in Florida, Hotspot Near You No. 150, in our December 2012 issue.
Francis Beidler Forest preserves hardwoods and cypress sloughs. From Charleston, take I-26 west to exit 187. Turn left on Hwy. 27, then right on Hwy. 78. Go 2.8 miles, continue straight on Hwy. 178 for 0.8 miles, and turn right on Beidler Forest Rd. Drive 4.1 miles to a fork in the road, stay right, and follow Mims Rd. one mile to the forest gate.
At a glance |
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest.
Flat. Boardwalk is wheelchair-accessible.
Spring and fall migrants: Veery, American Redstart, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks. Summer: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuckwill’s-widow, Acadian Flycatcher, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, Swainson’s, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers, Summer Tanager. Winter: Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Rusty Blackbird, kinglets, thrushes, and sparrows. Year-round: Wood Stork, Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Red-headed, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal.
When to go
April and May for migration and peak Prothonotary Warbler breeding activity.
Audubon Center has a gift shop, restrooms, drinking water, and a picnic area. Guided kayak and canoe trips and guided naturalist walks are available by reservation. Hiking trails on old logging roads.
Audubon South Carolina and Nature Conservancy preserve. Open 9-5 Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission: $8 for adults, $7 for Audubon members and seniors, $4 for children 6-12, $25 for annual pass. No pets.
No water or restrooms on the boardwalk or hiking trails. Deer flies and mosquitos can be a problem in the parking lot and picnic area; bug spray recommended.
For more info
Francis Beidler Forest, (843) 462-2150
Carolina Bird Club