Santee Experimental Forest

The Santee Experimental Forest provides a wide variety of field-scale and mesocosm-scale research facilities, instrumentation, laboratory and analytical capacity, and hydrological monitoring systems to support forest ecology, hydrology, soils and wildlife research.

These facilities are available for use by agency scientists and their collaborators.

The SEF also has trails for hiking and horseback riding, and most of the land is available for hunting.

Information on recreational use is available through the Francis Marion National Forest.

Southbound directions to Santee Experimental Forest
Northbound directions to Santee Experimental Forest


Data from long-term monitoring and studies conducted on the Santee Experimental Forest are available.

These data include hydrology and water quality measurements from four gauged watersheds, water table depth measurements within the gauged watersheds, climatic measurements from complete weather stations and satellite stations distributed across the Forest, and measurements of air quality and atmospheric deposition.

Spatial data sets characterizing the vegatation, soil and water resources on the SEF are also available.

This Santee Experimental Forest database is maintained in cooperation with the Center for Applied GIScience, University of North Carolina - Charlotte.

Access the Santee Experimental Forest Data Portal for hydrology, climate, and land resource databases →


Historical photos of Santee Experimental Forest

The forest lands of the Santee Experimental Forest have a rich agricultural history dating back to the early 1700’s, which is presented in In Land of Cypress and Pine: Environmental History of the Santee Experimental Forest, 1683 – 1937. Prior to colonization, the landscape was a mosaic of pine-hardwood flat woods and bottomlands. In 1683, the 12,000 acre, Cypress Barony was granted to Landgrave Thomas Colleton, who passed it to his son. In 1707, he sold the land off in three large tracts. These large tracts were further parceled into early plantations.

There are records of parts of six plantations on the SEF: Limerick, Windsor, Fishbrook, Silk Hope, Irishtown, and Jericho; with Limerick being predominant. In the years preceding the Civil War, plantations grew rice, indigo, and row crops. However, rice was the dominant commercial crop of the area. The woodlands were used extensively for forest products (lumber, naval stores), and livestock grazing.

During the Civil War and post-bellum years production of the plantations suffered until it disappeared completely. In 1899, E.P. Burton Lumber Company of North Charleston purchased the land that encompassed Limerick and adjoining plantations. A land survey conducted in 1903 by the Bureau of Forestry (Chapman, 1905) was a prelude to federal acquisition of the land as part of the development of the Francis Marion National Forest. The survey described a forested landscape, with bottomlands characterized as wet swamps, uplands, and a mosaic of pine and hardwoods. Some riparian areas were inventoried as “rice fields”, indicating open or non-forest vegetation. The survey also clearly indicated some of the main water management canals used in rice cultivation.

In the following decades, the tract was logged by Burton Lumber Co.. The timber activities helped fuel the new movement of forest research and logging of loblolly pine.

In 1928, the Wambaw Purchase Unit was established by the National Forest Reservation Commission. This unit was the first in the coastal plain region under the Clarke-McNary Act of 1924, which enabled the Forest Service to purchase land for management and reforestation of private lands.

The Francis Marion National Forest was formally commissioned in 1936. The Santee Experimental Forest was established the following year (1937).