SC History Trail

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve

Located off S.C. Highway 90, between Conway and Little River, the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve was an Army Air Corps gunnery range during World War II. Today it is better known for its natural history - as the site of 23 mysterious Carolina bays and a pristine habitat for wildlife and rare vegetation.


Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve
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Site Description
The Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, which lies northwest of Myrtle Beach, has a fascinating natural history. Parts of it composed an aerial gunnery range for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, and today remains of some bombing and machine gun targets remain, along with the foundations of an army observation post. The Preserve today, however, is best known as the site of the famous and mysterious Carolina bays - natural elliptical-shaped depressions that are unique to northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina.

Although theories abound, no one is certain exactly when and how the Carolina bays were formed. Twenty-three undisturbed Carolina bays exist in the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve which is composed of 9,393 acres of pristine Carolina woodlands. The bays support vegetation such as wild orchids, mulberry bushes, wax myrtle bushes, the rare pitcher plant, and one of the world's largest concentrations of the Venus flytrap. It is also the habitat for numerous Southern black bears, bald eagles and the rare, protected, red-cockaded woodpecker.

The Audubon Society has designated the Preserve as an "important bird area" in South Carolina. The Preserve is owned and maintained by the state's Department of Natural Resources. It is open to the public, but activities are strictly limited. Visitors may reach the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve via S.C. Highway 90 which runs between Conway and Little River.
Access and Admission
Access Description: Limited access for certain activities according to DNR Rules.
Admission: Free
Ownership: Public/DNR
Tours and Events
Guided Tours: No