Nestled along the May River, between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, the sprawling Palmetto Bluff is a beautiful, lush expanse of one of the most diverse plant and animal environments in the United States preserved by the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.
The Bluff is rich in culture and history, not to mention stunningly beautiful. Thus, an obvious need for care and conservation arose. The Palmetto Bluff Conservancy was created to ensure this amazing piece of land in the heart of the Lowcountry will be around for a long, long time. The Conservancy, under the direction of Jay Walea, is the keeper of the natural and historical world of Palmetto Bluff. The organization is also responsible for educating everyone involved in the development of a new piece of property.
Spanish moss, palmettos, live oaks, lush maritime forests, and winding tidal creeks comprise the spectacular geography of the land. Meanwhile dolphins, alligators, birds, and deer roam the acreage. When the opportunity to create a residential community arose, maintaining the ecological integrity of the lands was a priority.
Crescent Communities worked with the Conservancy to protect hundreds of acres under conservation easements. They significantly reduced the number of homes planned, cutting the number almost in half. There were also efforts to protect the surrounding wetlands, maintain food plots for local wildlife, and educate property owners on the benefits of “green” building. Today, Palmetto Bluff houses full and part-time residents and guests of The Montage Palmetto Bluff as well.
This land has been managed for thousands of years. Today the goal is to continue those efforts in the many conservation areas, nature preserves, interpretive trails, wetlands, and pre-development locations that are rarely visited. Jay and his team carefully protects and, where needed, restores the area.
Behind the Palmettos
Dr. Mary Socci, the on-site archaeologist, studies artifacts that reveal the fascinating details about previous occupants of the land. These artifacts are on display at the in the Reading Room in Moreland Village, some dating back 12,000 years. She led us through the many cemeteries on site, sharing tales of some the Bluff’s first settlers and famous residents. In her office, she and her team carefully sift through unearthed relics. They piece together the property’s history in letters, home goods, and other remnants of the past.
Meanwhile, Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Director Jay Walea took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bluff’s 20,000 acres that most guests don’t see. He’s the champion for the Palmetto Bluff inhabitants who cannot speak – the plants and animals. He has worked on the property for over 25 years, beginning his tenure during the Union Camp era. Watching the property evolve over time has only solidified his love of this place.
Jay starts and ends his days by hopping in his Chevy Silverado and perusing the place that’s become as familiar to him as his own backyard. He checks everything – making sure nothing has happened during the day or overnight that needs his attention. Jay is warm and welcoming, with a thick twang of a Southern accent. He manages the Conservancy and understands better than anyone the lay of this sacred land. Furthermore, he has made it his life’s work to ensure every decision on Palmetto Bluff is predicated on the needs of those many inhabitants some might never even notice. He can recite the Latin name of every plant present and predict where each animal will be and when.
Current projects include surveys of alligator, turtle, white-tailed deer and bird populations, monitoring bald eagle nests, a study of cavity-nest use and correlation with habitat, and the analysis of artifacts from antebellum Pettigrew Plantation. The Conservancy has also invited residents and guests at the bluff to participate in research and tour the protected areas. Jay regularly hosts events and tours.
Pleasure Meets Preservation
Today, this 20,000 acre community is flourishing: in addition to many stretches of untouched nature, it also encompasses an extensive preserve, walking trails, a vibrant village, marina, restaurants, and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Guest housing options include a charming collection of rooms, suites, cottages, cottage suites, and vacation homes, all situated between dynamic waterfronts and splendid forests.
There is also an abundance of activities, from land to water sports. Visitors can test their skills at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club, which features 14 shooting sites. Then stop by the May River Golf Course or play croquet at one of the many outdoor lawns. The eight Har-Tru tennis courts also await active guests. There are a plethora of hiking trails available for biking or horse riding. If water sports suit your fancy, Palmetto Bluff offers many locations for fishing, swimming, and paddling. With recent efforts, you can now experience Palmetto Bluff’s more colorful side with live music from a variety of genres, including blues, jazz, Southern rock, Lowcountry stomp and bluegrass concerts, too.
Enjoyment and long-term preservation balance carefully here. Every home site and sale funds a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the natural resources on the property. These conservation efforts ensure that visitors to modern day Palmetto Bluff can still enjoy the same views of the Palmetto Bluff that visitors to this land have for centuries. Visitors can experience the wonderful benefits of these conversation efforts with a stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff. There, Southern hospitality converges with fairytale decadence in Lowcountry luxury.
Let the magic of Palmetto Bluff overwhelm you. And let the careful management of the land serve as inspiration for how we can both enjoy and protect areas we love.