An Audubon’s Silver Bluff Center and Sanctuary Escapade

The Silver Bluff Sanctuary is a 3,154-acre land which is a property of the National Audubon Society. It is situated within Aiken County, South Carolina approximately 14 miles to the southeast to Augusta, Georgia. The property is situated in the coastal plain’s upper part only a few miles to the east of the line of fall as well as there is a river called the Savannah River that flows along 2.7 miles of the sanctuary’s southern border.

There is a variety of habitats present by Silver Bluff, ranging from bottomlands of red river hardwoods to deep uplands of sand. The habitat comprises the following:

  • 2,450-acres of upland mixed pine-hardwood and pine.
  • 470-acres of bottomland hardwood.
  • Open fields covering 125-acres.
  • 68-acres of lakes and ponds.
  • 30 acres subdivided fishponds that have drawn-down capacity that are maintained as a foraging area to Wood Storks and other wading birds.

History

Under the surface of Silver Bluff lies layer upon layer of archeological treasures. In nearly every time period of American history, something fascinating occurred in this area. Silver Bluff was:

  • The name is believed to be in honor of it was the site of the Spanish exploration for the silver. Spanish Conquistador Hernando deSoto explored the property in 1540.
  • This is the site for vast Native American earthworks. Naturalist William Bartram, visiting in 1776, described Silver Bluff a “very celebrated place” which included conical mounds, terraces and fortifications.
  • The site was a trading point for Native Americans before the Revolutionary War. The owner, George Galphin later became an army hero for persuading the Creek Nation and other Native Americans in the Southeast not to assist the British. British soldiers marched through Silver Bluff twice to murder Galphin, but the resistance of Galphin’s Patriot along with his Native American allies saved the day.
  • British fort during the Revolutionary War that was taken over from the Patriots during 1781. The fort’s stock of supplies led to a successful siege on Augusta that was surrendered to the Patriots just two weeks later.
  • The site that was the first to be created by one of the oldest black congregations located in the United States. The Silver Bluff Baptist Church was founded in 1773 and could have been meeting informally from the 1750s. The church was initially led by the enslaved man David George and probably the first pastor of African descent in America.
  • The property is owned by South Carolina’s Governor James Henry Hammond, who was also a U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator. In the early 1800s, Hammond kept extremely detailed documents of Silver Bluff’s structures and animals, horticulture, and slaves, which made archaeological sites of the time very valuable for historians.
  • The website of the American-African Colvin Cemetery, with 250 possible gravesites for the descendants of enslaved persons and those who were their slaves. Markers honor those of the Goodwin, Bowman, Shubrick, Hornsby, and Smith families, in addition to others and one of the latest markers showing that a burial took place in 1922. Hammond’s meticulous records of the slave community makes this cemetery an important one for historians.

It’s not often that you can find such a large amount of human activity in several eras and the least amount of disturbance to this underground history. Add Hammond’s records then Silver Bluff is a gold mine for archaeologists.

Audubon South Carolina recently launched an initiative to explain Silver Bluff’s history in a more effective way for visitors. Their collaborator in this project includes Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site which is located 11 miles away from Silver Bluff.

Prior to when there was a Civil War, Redcliffe and Silver Bluff were both owned by James Henry Hammond. It’s definitely worth a trip to Redcliffe to discover more about the area’s culture and natural history from the experts who guide Redcliffe’s excellent public tours.

Hours

Visitors can walk on their walking trails all year round from dawn until dusk!

Please note: Visitors Center is open occasionally, as staff is usually working elsewhere within the property.

Be aware that in addition to the times that gate access is open, they offer special events such as , wine tastings, trail rides as well as butterfly and bird counts.

Trails

In the parking lot for the visitor center, there’s a kiosk with an interactive map showing the trails leading to each. The trails are well-marked using traditional hiker symbols placed on posts of orange, meaning you don’t require an actual map to find the trail.

Trail 3
Trail 1
Trail 2
  1. A loop trail of 2 miles begins in the parking area that is grassy close to the main gate. It leads through hardwood and pine forests stopping halfway through with a boardwalk, which ends at a wet weather lake.
  2. The .75-mile loop trail begins close to the garden for butterflies. The trail runs through an old longleaf pine forest and has interpretive stops on the trail.
  3. The 3rd trail, which is the latest one, is a 3-mile loop that leads through piney woodlands and into a “prairie” filled with native flowers and grasses, before heading up the bluffs that overlook Savannah River.

A lot of visitors enjoy going to The Wood Stork to forage ponds that are situated close to the point that the road ends at Silver Bluff Rd. Storks are not present in the late summer and into September, a stroll through the ponds any time of the year will yield an assortment of bird and wildlife sights. Bald Eagles have nested near the ponds since 1994.

They also have 20 miles of trails for horses and overlooks on the river are open to the public for special occasions.

Did you have fun? Check out All About the Brick Pond Park too!

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