Beidler's 50th Anniversary Celebration

50 Years of Standing on the Knees of Giant Cypress

On May 11, 2024, Audubon South Carolina commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Francis Beidler Forest, an 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary and a crown jewel among South Carolina’s natural treasures.

This historic milestone was honored with a day of celebration at the Beidler Forest Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Harleyville, halfway between Charleston and Columbia. Visitors enjoyed free admission to Beidler’s 1.75-mile ADA-accessible swamp boardwalk, along with a variety of family-friendly activities and educational programs that were offered throughout the day.

An Audubon staff person sits at a table on the backporch of the visitor center and paints on a girl's arm. Behind them two volunteers share nature objects with guests.
Jennifer Tyrrell uses her artistic expertise at the face painting table. Photo: Sydney Walsh

Morning programs included a guided nature tour and a Prothonotary Warbler banding demonstration. In the afternoon, an official anniversary ceremony was held on the boardwalk, with remarks offered by Audubon South Carolina Executive Director Rebecca Haynes, former Beidler Forest Sanctuary Manager and Executive Director Norman Brunswig, and Francis Beidler’s grandson Doug Tisdahl.

A woman stands on the boardwalk during a guided boardwalk program.
A group of visitors being led by Ryan Watson (center) on the boardwalk during our 50th Anniversary celebration day. Photo: Sydney Walsh
A banded Prothonotary Warbler is held in the hand of a researcher, who is using a tool to measure the length of its wing.
A Prothontary Warbler has its measurements taken during the bird banding demonstration. Photo: Sydney Walsh
Norman Brunswig stands behind a tree-shaped podium on the boardwalk and addresses the crowd during the 50th ceremony.
Norman Brunswig, retired South Carolina State Director of 40 years, speaks during Francis Beidler Forest's 50th Anniversary. Photo: Sydney Walsh

In addition to looking back over the last 50 years, Audubon staff also highlighted the work they plan to prioritize over the next half century. This includes continuing to focus on land protection and management in the Four Holes Swamp watershed, along with interpreting the cultural history of the landscape. In addition, Audubon South Carolina plans to expand its work across the hemisphere, based on past bird research conducted at Beidler Forest.

To this end, Audubon staff made a surprise, virtual announcement on May 11th – they were joined live with colleagues in Colombia, South America to establish a “sister center” relationship with a nature center in Barranquilla, Colombia. Audubon staff working in Colombia, along with the staff at the Ecopark Cienaga de Marroquin, and the mayor of Barranquilla, were present for this special ceremonial signing of an MOU between the two centers. Since birds like Prothonotary Warblers need habitat in both South Carolina and South America, working directly with partners across the hemisphere is key to protecting these birds and many others.

Matt Johnson and Rebecca Haynes sit at a table. In front of Rebecca is a large notebook that she is signing.
South Carolina's Executive Director Rebecca Haynes and Beidler Forest's Center Director Matt Johnson take part in the signing ceremony for our sister center in Colombia. Photo: Sydney Walsh

It was also serendipitous that Beidler’s 50th anniversary also fell on World Migratory Bird Day, which is an annual awareness campaign that promotes the protection of migratory birds and their habitats.

About Beidler Forest

The Francis Beidler Forest was established on May 11, 1974, thanks to a partnership between the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, which resulted in the permanent protection of 3,415 acres of land in the Four Holes Swamp watershed. Today, the sanctuary has grown to include more than 18,000 acres of critical bird and wildlife habitat in one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

Beidler Forest is located within the Four-Holes Swamp watershed, a blackwater swamp that rises in Calhoun County and flows for 62 miles to the confluence of the Edisto River. It includes portions of the tribal lands of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso, a state-recognized Native American Tribe headquartered in Ridgeville.

It is also a designated site of significance within the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, a National Natural Landmark, an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area, and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

Visitors to Audubon's Beidler Forest Center and Sanctuary have an opportunity to learn more about the history of the area, as well as Audubon’s ongoing bird research, conservation, and advocacy efforts through self-guided tours, staff-led programs, and guided kayak trips. It is one of two Audubon sanctuaries in South Carolina and 35 across the United States.

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