The Santee Indian Mound and site of Fort Watson is located in the Bluff unit of Santee National Wildlife Refuge. While I’d heard of the oyster middens along the coast I’d not heard of the mound until I planned a scenic driving route from where I used to live and Columbia. I made it my business to visit it.
Santee NWR is located on the north side of Lake Marion. The Indian mound is on the west side of I95, close to the visitor center. The visitor center is well worth the visit with great views of Lake Marion and exhibits. I’ll talk more about Santee NWR in another post.
As said, I never knew such a mound existed in SC. The Santee Indians were part of the Mississippian culture. I’ve visited several of their mounds, the last site being one in Arkansas. This mound, a ceremonial site, is over 1000 years old and is the largest such structure on the coastal plains. Archeologists have discovered several graves here.
When the Europeans began to colonize the area, only 3,000 Santee lived here. That number dwindled to 500 by 1715, sixty-five years later. But that wasn’t the end of the use of the mound. The British used it an outpost, Fort Watson, during the Revolutionary war. From here they could monitor the rivers and roads, they being a major routes between Charleston and Camden.
General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, and Lt. Colonel Henry Lee, ‘Light Horse Harry’, took Fort Watson in an eight day battle. Their victory was one of the reasons the British left the back country of South Carolina.
There is nothing left of the fort, just a marker. I was a bit disappointed, but it had been made out of wood and probably wasn’t that big to begin with. There are steps leading up to the top of the mound from which you can see the surroundings. When you visit, please use the stairs so the mound doesn’t erode.
Nearby is the Wrights Bluff Nature trail, a one-mile trail well worth the hike. When you visit the Indian Mound make sure you go on this too.
How to Get There
The Bluff Unit is right off I95 where US15/US301 split away from the interstate, exit 102.
What’s Close by:
The rest of Santee NWR
Santee State Park
Poinsett Sate Park
Manchester State Forest