Ernest F. Hollings Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Fish and Wildlife Service, South Carolina.

ACE Basin NWR was established in September 1990 for its significance for wetland and habitat protection, migratory bird benefits and conservation opportunities served by the lands and waters of the refuge. In 2005, the refuge was renamed the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge (E.F.H. ACE Basin NWR) in honor of South Carolina's retired U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings. The refuge is located within the larger 350,000-acre Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin system, widely recognized as a unique and critical environment for its wide diversity of wildlife and plants.

The E.F.H. ACE Basin NWR is composed of two units, comprising approximately 11, 815 acres. The Edisto Unit, at 7,203 acres, is located approximately 20 miles southwest of Charleston. The unit lies along the South Edisto River and includes the Grove Plantation – the Refuge Headquarters. The Combahee Unit, consists of 4,612 acres in Beaufort, Colleton and Hampton counties, and is located about 20 miles northwest of Beaufort. Drained by two river systems, the Combahee-Salkahatchie and South Edisto, the refuge contains exceptional wildlife habitat including forested wetlands and mixed pine and hardwood uplands, brackish and freshwater natural marshes, wetland management units, marsh islands, agricultural fields, and pristine estuarine rivers.

E.F.H. ACE Basin NWR provides haven for a vast array of birds, fish, and many other animals including endangered and threatened species. Threatened Wood storks forage and nest in managed wetlands and, endangered Shortnose sturgeon breed and feed in the Edisto and Combahee rivers. The neotropical Painted bunting, a Species of Continental Conservation Interest, finds nesting and foraging habitats in the forested edges, scrub thickets and upland fields during spring and summer months. Bald eagles and American alligators can be seen throughout the year.

The ACE Basin system represents the largest estuarine resource in South Carolina and, the Edisto River is the longest free-flowing blackwater river on the east coast of North America. The refuge, with its plethora of birdlife, is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.

The refuge is steeped in cultural history with many historical values protected. Sixteen archaeological sites are identified on the refuge. The Grove House, a former rice plantation manor built in 1828, is one of a few antebellum mansions in the area that survived the Civil War and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jehossee Island, a significant archeological area, has been assessed for eligibility for both a rural historic landscape and historic district.

The Grove Plantation, originally a land grant to Robert Fenwick in 1694, has had many owners through the years. From 1695 until 1825, the property changed hands nine times. At least eight additional parties would claim ownership of Grove Plantation from 1825 until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife purchased the property as part of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

George Washington Morris purchased the land in 1825. He named it Grove Plantation and built the Grove House about 1828. The house was built in the late-Federal-period style of architecture, having the unusual feature of polygonal rooms and projecting symmetrical polygonal bays. Upon G.W. Morris’s death in 1834, the plantation passed from his wife to his son. The property was sold to John Berkeley Grimball in 1857, who combined his plantation Pinebury with the Grove and moved into the Grove house in 1858.

During the Civil War, both Pinebury and the Grove were sites of military activity with the Grove House, at one time, occupied by Confederate troops. By 1866, the Grove was considered abandoned, and the property confiscated by the government. John Grimball took the amnesty oath of loyalty to the United States, applied to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, and was able to regain ownership of the Grove and Pinebury.  After the war, he was unable to make mortgage payments on the Grove and the land reverted back to George W. Morris’ heirs in 1870.

The property then changed hands numerous times until it was purchased by Owen Winston in 1929. Winston did a restoration of the house. He added 5 dormer windows on the roof, put in 2 bathrooms on the north porch, removed the polygonal walls in the hallway and put in straight ones. Herringbone brickwork was added under both porches, wainscoting & doors installed, and outbuildings put in, including stables, an ice house, a 3 car garage, a barn, 2 residences, and a kitchen house.

By 1934, the Grove came under Thompson Brown’s ownership, He and his family used the plantation as a winter vacation residence and place to hunt waterfowl & deer. The Browns planted pecan, persimmon, cedar, palmetto, magnolia, and azaleas around the house. In 1947, the SC Power Company ran power lines to the house. The Browns sold the property in 1953.

R. Carter Henry purchased the Grove in 1964. The Henrys did an extensive renovation on the house. The stairwell in the foyer was changed to an open design, duck tiles were added around one fireplace and outbuildings were restored. R. C. Henry sold the Grove to A. Leigh Baier in the early 1970s.

During the Baier family's ownership, numerous rice field trunks (water control structures) were rebuilt or replaced and many of the dikes around the rice fields were repaired. Following Mr. Baier, Ralph and Margaret Hendricks owned the Grove until The Nature Conservancy purchased it in 1991.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service purchased the Grove Plantation in 1992. Renovations on the Manor were completed by the Service in 1996-1997.  The Grove Manor houses the headquarters offices and visitor contact station of the refuge. 

Nearby Activities


Driving Directions to Refuge Headquarters, Edisto Unit
From Highway 17, take SC 174; Stay on SC 174 through the town of Adams Run; At the intersection with flashing light, turn right onto Willtown Rd/State Rd S-10-55; Approximatelt 2 miles, refuge entrance road/State Rd S-10-346 is on the left. Headquarters is the Grove Plantation House, about 2 miles down the gravel road. 

Driving Directions to Refuge Combahee Unit
From Highway 17, take River Rd/State Rd S-7-33; travel 1.9 miles to 1180 River Rd, Yemassee, SC 29945
GPS Coordinates to Combahee Unit:  32.661278, -80.7261197


Additional Information