The United States Congress designated the Hell Hole Bay Wilderness (map
) in 1980 and it now has a total of 2,122 acres
All of this wilderness is located in South Carolina
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Swamps and wetlands--that's what you'll find on all four Wildernesses in the Francis Marion National Forest. From June through August (the wettest season) much of the ground is usually submerged in 2 to 18 inches of standing water. On September 21, 1989, Hurricane Hugo swept through with winds in excess of 135 miles per hour, devastating decades-old second-growth forest. Virtually every tree that reached nine inches in diameter fell to earth, and trails and old roads were washed away. Wildlife suffered greatly, especially the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. On the four Wilderness areas, nature has begun to rebuild without human interference. Insects abound, with mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks reaching peak irritability from summer through fall. Many snakes, including poisonous water moccasins, copperheads, and rattlesnakes, make their homes here. Within most of the areas visibility is poor due to dense vegetation, and getting lost is easy. There are precious few spots dry enough for camping. If you desire a true South Carolina Wilderness adventure, bring shoes that will hold up when wet, insect repellent, and courage. Hell Hole Bay, one of the four Francis Marion Wildernesses, takes its name from a large opening in the forest probably formed by wildfires dating back to before the 1700s. For much of the year the Hell Hole Canoe Trail (6 to 12 inches deep, 6 to 8 feet wide, and just over a mile long) crosses the bay, but during the "dry" season it becomes a mushy hiking trail. The trail passes bald cypress, tupelo, and spreading maple. There are no other trails in the area.