South Carolina’s Ashley River Blue Trail

This is a guest blog from Howard Bridgman. American Rivers and a diverse group of local partners are developing a Blue Trail for the Ashley River in South Carolina. Guest blogger, Howard Bridgman, former Summerville Town Council member and founding member of the Ashley Scenic River Advisory Council, writes about our work to connect local communities to the river through recreation and finding ways to ensure its long-term health.

Ashley Scenic River, SC | © South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Ashley Scenic River, SC | © South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

The Ashley River is an extraordinary resource. Its diverse habitats, its proximity to a major city, and its role in the settling and development of South Carolina makes the Ashley River unparalleled in its unique combination of historic significance and natural value as a relatively undisturbed tidal river.

The Ashley River corridor includes Charlestown Landing, the site of Charleston’s first settlement in 1670, Historic Dorchester (State Park) settled in 1697 and the recently discovered Ashley Barony site dating to the 1670’s. What draws me to the Ashley perhaps more than anything else is great boating, scenic vistas and a wide variety of fish and wildlife.

It offers a myriad of fishing opportunities with redbreast sunfish in its upper reaches to spottail bass and sea trout in the tidal marshes. The river is home to the endangered shortnose sturgeon and supports striped bass that spawn in the upper reaches. Among its more charismatic residents is the swallowtailed kite, aptly named for its forked tail and graceful flight, which soars above the river and floodplain while plucking insects from the air.

The Ashley River was designated a State Scenic River in the 1990s covering a 22-mile section running from Slands Bridge near Summerville downstream into Charleston proper. For these reasons and more I am thrilled to be American Rivers’ new Ashley River Blue Trail Coordinator. I’ll be working closely with the Ashley Scenic River Advisory Council and others to connect people to the Ashley River through recreation and to protect the river and its riverside lands through the creation of a Blue Trail.

A Blue Trail is a river adopted by a local community that is dedicated to improving family-friendly recreation such as fishing, boating, and wildlife-watching, and conserving riverside land. Just as hiking trails are designed to help people explore the land, Blue Trails help people discover their rivers. They help communities improve recreation and tourism, benefit local businesses and the economy, and protect river health and wildlife. They are voluntary, cooperative, locally led efforts that improve community quality of life.