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Our Secret Delta

An epic story about power, beauty and how one of SC's last great places faces new threats

  • Updated
  • 1 min to read

Chapter 1

The Flow

The Santee Delta is a mysterious place, with secrets hidden by neglect and time.

It’s difficult to love sometimes, especially when deer flies hit your skin like hailstones.

And it’s difficult to see, even, because the delta is so flat and wild that forests hide vistas behind curtains of brown and green.

Yet once you get a little altitude, with a drone or from guides who know its past, this place opens like a grand old book.

Then its pages tell of inventions that changed the course of history, of rice called Carolina Gold, of the blistered hands of enslaved people who built one of the world’s agricultural wonders, of the ebb and flow of money and wont.

And also stories about baseball teams and ducks. About aging alligators with names like Big Bertha and Truck Biter. About old threats and new.

And water.

Always water, whether the stories are new or old, tragedies or mysteries.

So, before we get to the stories and secrets, let’s get our bearings, let’s follow the water.


Roseate Spoonbills.JPG

A flock of roseate spoonbills fly over a rice field at the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Santee Cooper's longstanding land grab starves the Santee Delta
Santee Cooper's longstanding land grab starves the Santee Delta
Beach erosion.JPG

Cedar Island's beach is eroding under the onslaught of rising seas and a decrease in silt flushed down the Santee River. Lauren Petracca/Staff

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Reach Tony Bartelme at 843-937-5554. Follow him on Twitter @tbartelme.

Tony Bartelme is senior projects reporter for The Post and Courier. He has earned national honors from the Nieman, Scripps, Loeb and National Press foundations and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Reach him at 843-937-5554 and @tbartelme

Watchdog/Public Service Editor

Glenn Smith is editor of the Watchdog and Public Service team and helped write the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, “Till Death Do Us Part.” He is a Connecticut native and a longtime crime reporter.

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