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Palmetto Bluff’s Window to the Wild

Thanks to a dedicated conservancy, the community has nurtured a thriving Lowcountry ecosystem

At the confluence of the May, Cooper, and New rivers, Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, is a quiet community encompassing residential neighborhoods, rental cottages, and an award-winning inn. Beyond its subtle luxuries and small-town feel, however, it’s Palmetto Bluff’s overarching mission that sets it apart. Nestled amid miles of pristine Lowcountry wilderness, the property’s chief concern is protecting its wildlife—and connecting its residents to the natural world outside their doors.

At twenty thousand acres, Palmetto Bluff is home to a wide expanse of natural habitats, ranging from ancient maritime forests and mixed-pine hardwoods to evergreen wetlands and hardwood bottoms. In 2003, the property founded the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, a department committed to looking after this rare coastal community. Through land management, research, and education, the Conservancy works to ensure the ecological integrity of Palmetto Bluff’s natural habitats, all while teaching residents and guests about the many wonders that lie within them. In turn, each of Palmetto Bluff’s homes and amenities are designed with the Conservancy in mind, resulting in lush views from every window and ample room to roam.

Palmetto Bluff is a constant hive of activity—for residents and wildlife alike. Live oaks, magnolias, eastern red cedars, and cabbage palmettos comprise the maritime forest, while white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkeys, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, gray foxes, and bobcats make their homes amid the verdant landscape. Meanwhile, fiddler crabs and redfish can be spotted in the marshes and wetlands, as wood storks, great and snowy egrets, great blue and tricolored herons, summer tanagers, and painted buntings look on from the shore. To care for this vast web of flora and fauna, the property employs a seasoned group of experts, including Conservancy director Jay Walea, a passionate outdoorsman who grew up around Palmetto Bluff, and Dr. Mary Socci, a seasoned archaeologist whose findings reveal much about the history of the land.

While the Conservancy’s work spans a myriad of land stewardship tasks, some are especially joyful to execute. In 2019, for example, Palmetto Bluff staffer Kristen Constantineau was tasked with locating the perfect Christmas tree in the backwoods of the property. Along with Walea, they found their pick in the form of a fifteen-foot cedar deep in the tidal wetland. But the tree wasn’t bound for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. Instead, Constantineau researched safe, edible “decorations” and returned to the site to trim the tree with garlands of orange and cranberry and a heap of birdseed ornaments. A worthy feast for the woodland critters (and a memorable shot for the property’s Christmas card), the first-ever Palmetto Bluff Wildlife Tree was a success.

It’s not just the staff who get to interact with this dynamic landscape, however. Throughout the year, countless Conservancy-led tours, events, and workshops offer residents the opportunity to explore their curiosities and get acquainted with their wild surroundings. A series of Brown Bag Lunches, hosted both in person and virtually, cover topics such as “Living with Your Wild Neighbors” (November 3) and the feeding patterns of the Lowcountry’s native bats (November 10), while regular volunteer days, including a gathering to tend the Pollinator Garden on November 4, are open to participants of all ages. Offering an even closer look at Palmetto Bluff’s wildlife, the Conservancy also hosts a slate of “Explore PBC” tours, guiding attendees through various sections of the property in search of wild creatures to research and observe. Perhaps the best introduction, however, will take place on December 8, when Palmetto Bluff hosts a special “Meet the Conservancy” event (also in-person or virtual). In the Conservancy classroom, members will share a detailed overview of their work, including recent and upcoming efforts and ways to get involved.

With such diligent care for the land on which it sits, Palmetto Bluff is not only a fine development, but also paints a picture of what living in true harmony with the natural world looks like. To explore the possibilities within this rare Lowcountry oasis, visit palmettobluff.com.