May 11, 2024, marks the 50th anniversary of Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest, an 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary and a crown jewel among South Carolina’s natural treasures.

Audubon South Carolina will commemorate this historic milestone with a day of celebration at the Beidler Forest Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Harleyville, halfway between Charleston and Columbia.

Visitors will enjoy free admission to Beidler’s 1.75-mile ADA-accessible swamp boardwalk, along with a variety of family-friendly activities and educational programs that will be offered throughout the day.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Beidler Forest,” said Rebecca Haynes, executive director of Audubon South Carolina. “Most of all, I’m excited for the opportunity to thank the countless people and partners who have played a role in protecting and stewarding this amazing landscape, and who have supported our organization and our conservation mission through the years.”

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The Francis Beidler Forest was established on May 11, 1974, thanks to a partnership between the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, which resulted in the permanent protection of 3,415 acres of land in the Four Holes Swamp watershed. Today, the sanctuary has grown to include more than 18,000 acres of critical bird and wildlife habitat in one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

“There are precious few places in the Lowcountry that look the same today as they did 50 years ago,” said Tim Evans, director of land conservation for Audubon South Carolina. “Meanwhile, Beidler Forest offers a glimpse of what South Carolina looked like thousands of years ago. It really is a remarkable landscape and a true conservation success story.”

Center doors will open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. Morning programs will include a guided nature tour at 9 a.m. and a prothonotary warbler banding demonstration at 10 a.m. The Ridgeville-based Kitchen 27 food truck will be onsite from noon to 2 p.m., and an official anniversary ceremony will be held on the boardwalk at 2 p.m.

A complete list of events and activities can be found at

“It’s serendipitous that Beidler’s 50th anniversary falls on World Migratory Bird Day, which is an annual awareness campaign that promotes the protection of migratory birds and their habitats,” said Matt Johnson, center director at Audubon’s Beidler Forest. “We’re excited to be a part of this global initiative, which happens right as millions of birds are taking to the skies as part of their epic intercontinental migrations.

“I’m also eager to introduce our guests to some of the special species that are currently visiting the swamp, such as the prothonotary warbler, which is the star of our banding demonstration on Saturday.”

Beidler Forest is located within the Four-Holes Swamp watershed, a blackwater swamp that rises in Calhoun County and flows for 62 miles to the confluence of the Edisto River. It includes portions of the tribal lands of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso, a state-recognized Native American tribe headquartered in Ridgeville.

It is also a designated site of significance within the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, a National Natural Landmark, an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area, and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

Visitors to Audubon’s Beidler Forest Center and Sanctuary have an opportunity to learn more about the history of the area, as well as Audubon’s ongoing bird research, conservation and advocacy efforts through self-guided tours, staff-led programs and guided kayak trips. It is one of two Audubon sanctuaries in South Carolina and 35 across the United States.

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