By Christine Ellis
Our own Waccamaw River is receiving the recognition it deserves as a model of the America’s Great Outdoors River Initiative. Those of us who love the Waccamaw and watch over it already know how wonderful and important it is as a source of drinking water, recreation and habitat for diverse plant and animal life. But now the nation knows about our wonderful Waccamaw River due to it being chosen by the US Department of Interior as a model river. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is designed to conserve and restore key rivers across the nation, expand outdoor recreational opportunities and support jobs in local communities.
This spring, Secretary Salazar announced that the Waccamaw River in North and South Carolina was selected as a model river and an example of how communities across America can restore and reconnect with the rivers in their backyards.
The National Park Service, state and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations are collaborating to obtain a National Water Trail designation for the Waccamaw River Water Trail, which stretches across North and South Carolina from its source at Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina to Winyah Bay in South Carolina and which will protect one of the largest contiguous wildlife habitat areas in the southern coastal plain, reconnect local communities to the river through education and outdoor recreation, and create economic opportunities through tourism.
The Waccamaw Riverkeeper has been proud to be a leader in this effort since 2009. In South Carolina, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper has partnered with American Rivers, Pee Dee Land Trust and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation to establish the South Carolina Waccamaw River Blue Trail, hosting paddle trips and promoting conservation of important lands along the river. A waterproof map is available to interested paddlers to help them explore the Waccamaw River and its natural, historical and cultural assets. As a watchdog for the entire river, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper has also partnered with upstream stakeholders to promote recreation and conservation on the North Carolina section of the Waccamaw River, altogether over 140 river miles through two states.
Christine Ellis is the Waccamaw RiverKeeper for Winyah Rivers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, monitor and revitalize the health of the lands and waters of the greater Winyah Bay watershed. For more information on the Waccamaw RiverKeeper Program and to get involved, visit the website, www.winyahrivers.org, or call 843-349-4007.