Winyah Bay

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Aerial view of north inlet of Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Winyah Bay is a coastal estuary that is the confluence of the Waccamaw River, the Pee Dee River, the Black River, and the Sampit River in Georgetown County, in eastern South Carolina. Its name comes from the Winyaw, who used to inhabit the region during the eighteenth century. The historic port city of Georgetown is located on the bay, and the bay generally serves as the terminating point for the Grand Strand.

The bay is evidence of a drowned coastline, created by a rise in sea level in recent geologic time. It was a prime site for fishing by Native Americans and an early area to develop in colonial times as a seaport and center of rice culture and timbering.

The entrance to the bay is flanked by North Island, South Island and Cat Island, comprising the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center, willed to the State by Tom Yawkey, former owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Winyah Bay is the fourth largest estuary on the US East Coast when classified by discharge rate (Voulgaris et al. 2002). It is home to many aquatic and terrestrial species, including sturgeon, sharks, dolphins, red drum, stingrays, star drum, white shrimp, blue crabs, pelicans, bald eagles, cormorants, and various species of seagulls.


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