Marie McAden



Edisto State Park offers free boat tours through the ACE Basin

Posted 8/20/2012 1:39:00 PM

Sweet deal of the month: free boat tours through the ACE Basin, the largest undeveloped wetland ecosystem on the East Coast.

Yes, I did say free. The 2.5-hour boat rides are being offered this month by Edisto State Park to give visitors the chance to explore and experience the marshes, streams, rivers and sea islands of this pristine nature preserve.

Formed by the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, the 350,000-acre basin was once home to large, prosperous rice plantations that helped build America’s first aristocracy. After the rice culture declined in the late 1800s, wealthy sportsmen bought many of the plantations to use as hunting retreats, preserving the unspoiled natural beauty of the area.

Trips aboard the Department of Natural Resources’ “Discovery” pontoon boat are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Aug. 23, 24, 30 and 31. Reservations are limited to 30 participants for each cruise so you’ll want to book your spot early. You must be at least 10 years old to go on the boat tour.

To register, call (843) 869-2156. Be sure to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a snack and water. If you’ve got binoculars, bring those along, too. The ACE Basin is home to bald eagles, endangered wood storks, wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, an assortment of raptors and the always-popular American alligator.