Since hurricane Matthew hit in October of last year, access to Botany Bay beach has been restricted due to the loss of the bridge on the causeway as I'm sure most of you are aware.
We have recently learned that on Saturday July 15th, the beach will reopen to the public. The bridge has been rebuilt and it looks great!
However with all of the changes that Matthew left us, there's some critical things you'll need to know. Here are a few reminders and updates that the S.C. Department of Natural Resources wants visitors to understand.
1) The Trees
I know the first thing a lot of you will want to know is whether or not the trees are still standing in the water. As has been confirmed by others and now with our own eyes, we're sad to report that there is now only one tree still standing in the water.
There has been a lot of talk and speculation about what the beach looks like today and we can tell you that although a lot has changed, we now have a bigger boneyard beach than ever before. Don't go to the beach expecting the compositions you used to photograph. The rearrangement of the trees will offer new compositions and opportunities for photographers.
2) Beach Loss
As a result of the hurricane, there was approximately 100 feet of beach that is now under water (even at low tide). This will effect visitors because of the new paths the tides travel. Last year we used to be able to navigate through the tree line to return if we got stuck at high tide, this will no longer be possible. For those of you who have been there in the past, the water at high tide now reaches where the tiki hut used to be and beyond. We can't express this emphatically enough, be constantly aware of the tide chart.
3) Beach Accessibility
One SCDNR worker said it this way "it's like God took a bowling ball and plowed the tree line". When you arrive at the parking area you'll notice that the trees on the horizon are now missing, exposing the beach front. In addition and as mentioned above, with the change in the tide's path, the beach will not be accessible for several hours before and several hours after high tide, because the waves come right up to the end of the causeway. We highly recommend before heading out that you are familiar with the tide level for your golden hour, and making sure you will be within the window to safely return.
4) Part Of The Beach Remains Closed
As you know, the SCDNR is passionate about wildlife and wildlife management is one of their primary purposes for properties like Botany Bay. The south end of the beach will remain closed until August 1st to protect oystercatchers, Wilson’s plovers, and a colony of least terns while they are nesting and raising their young on the beach. This means when you arrive at the beach from the causeway, the entire area to the right of the causeway is completely closed until August 1st, when chicks will be mobile. Please respect this and stay to the left.
5) New Dangers To Be Aware Of
Prior to hurricane Matthew, there were always roots, spikes and tree remains that posed a danger to guests traveling the beach in the dark prior to sunrise. This is not something to take lightly. With the change of the entire landscape at the beach, there are now more obstacles than ever to be aware of. Having a head lamp or flashlight will be very important when you arrive just before sunrise.
6) Rules To Abide:
Please remember the rules and regulations from last year still apply. Specifically the following:
- Drones are not permitted at anytime.
- Signing in at the kiosk before entering the property is mandatory. Keep in mind, this is exceptionally vital because the record of traffic helps the SCDNR to monitor the ratio between human footprint and wildlife.
- Removal of shells, sea life or artifacts can result in a $475 fine.
- You must be off the property 30 minutes after sunset.
7) Give Back
It absolutely takes a village to keep Botany protected, cleaned and accessible. As photographers we take stunning imagery from there. We want to encourage local photographers that if you visit Botany often, that you consider giving back by volunteering. They always welcome folks to come help them.
8) Be Extra Kind
The folks who volunteer and work out there are protective of this sacred place. Give extra grace where grace is needed and please be mindful of the rules. After all, they are there for our safety.
In closing, the closure and destruction that nature enforced is a strong reminder to all nature photographers that what we photograph and document is ever changing and needs our protection. Please obey all of the above rules, and take ownership not just of this property, but of all land in helping to protect it.