New SEWE event takes participants to local wildlife, rather than other way around

Freak of light turns Caw Caw Swamp into a rainbow of colors.

The Southeastern Wildlife Expo is known for its display of exotic critters — whether they’re under tents in Marion Square or part of special presentations around town. But one new activity on the schedule this year aims to switch things up by taking attendees into the natural world to observe local wildlife in its own habitat.

The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission will host “Combing the Caw Caw Wilderness Tour,” a guided exploration of the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel from 1-4:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s the first time the commission has presented an event during SEWE.

Gina Ellis-Strother, the director of marketing for the commission, said she approached the festival’s organizers with the idea a few months ago.

“I explained to them that Caw Caw was the perfect place for people to encounter wildlife in their natural habitat while providing a unique experience for SEWE patrons,” she said. “Much of the wildlife featured at SEWE are not always seen in their natural habitat due to the nature of the event.”

The county park, which is about 16 miles west of the festival’s main hub in downtown Charleston, is home to a prehistoric swamp populated by cypress and tupelo trees, eagles, wild turkeys, otters and waterfowl. It offers more than six miles of trails and boardwalks with educational exhibits and cultural history programs.

Recently, the center was designated as a partner site for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor for its history as part of several rice plantations cultivated by enslaved Africans.

The tour is open to the public, whether they participate in SEWE or not. Admission is $35 per person, which includes transportation to and from the center. Pickup and drop-off will be at the Charleston Visitors’ Center Bus Shed, 375 Meeting St. To sign up, visit CharlestonCountyParks.com and select course No. 44920.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.