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The Georgetown County Historical Society

 

Winyah Bay's Rich History

Winyah Bay comprises the geographic region now known as Georgetown, South Carolina. From the first inhabitants, the Indians, hunting and fishing has always been a way of life. In 1526, Spaniards made the first recorded North American expedition to Winyah Bay, and the indigenous fauna of waterfowl, turkey, deer, fish and shellfish provided the basics to survive.

The 525,000-acre Winyah Bay area covers the lower drainage of the Black, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Sampit and Waccamaw rivers and their confluence into Winyah Bay itself. Together, these waterways form the third largest estuarine watershed on the East Coast.

Rice has been cultivated here for centuries, and the wetlands are a regionally significant habitat for waterfowl, colonial water birds and nesting ospreys. Upland tracts support endangered red-cockaded woodpecker colonies. Many other threatened or endangered species can be found throughout Winyah Bay, including bald eagles, short-nosed sturgeon, loggerhead sea turtles, peregrine falcons, least terns, piping plovers, and wood storks. At any time of year, you will see schools of dolphin and large alligators swimming the area waters.

In 1732, when the seaport community of Georgetown was established, the Winyah Bay region had already begun to embrace the rich traditions of its diverse residents. Native American, European and African cultures mixed to form a rich blend of art, architecture and accents. In these early years, hunting and fishing provided much of the food and its importance was well understood.

In the early 1900s, affluent northerners flocked here to hunt and fish with local sportsmen and landowners. Their quarry varied from ducks, deer, quail and hogs to the fish found in our rivers, creeks and Winyah Bay itself. Out of this came a fine Southern Sporting Heritage. Hunting, fishing, sporting art, dogs, decoys and firearms are part of the landscape. This in turn, spawned many of the region’s great writers and artists. It is a heritage that continues to this day.