Charleston Woodlands balances habitat protection with public events
Premium elevated tents and kayaks are available for rent at this outdoor venue and campground.
Most families who own 6,000 acres of prime Charleston real estate might be tempted to build houses. That’s not the case for Charleston Woodlands, where Holland Duell and his three sisters are committed to preserving the property for wildlife while generating revenue through nature-based tourism.
The bucolic campground and event site, just across from Middleton Place (which the Duell family donated to the public), opened last spring with the Charleston Bluegrass Festival. But this fall is when the venue’s presence—and appeal—is likely to become the talk of the town. Three major events are scheduled for the property—Into the Woods music festival (October 4-6); Skinful Halloween (October 26); and the inaugural Woodlands Fall Music & Arts Festival, featuring jam/rock group Umphrey’s McGee (November 8-9).
“We are creating sources of revenue that are consistent with our values of environmental conservation,” explains Duell, adding that historic uses of the land such as fox hunting have ceased. Instead, the family has put conservation easements in place that ensure wildlife can thrive while accommodating visitors.
On most days, this quiet preserve, located about 15 miles from downtown, feels like a surreal escape. An armadillo crosses the road during an afternoon walk through the forest, and a deer sprints through a sprawling stand of live oaks. The property includes 11 lakes and a 1,000-acre natural blackwater swamp home to abundant bird life and a healthy alligator population.
Visitors don’t have to attend a festival to experience Charleston Woodlands’ nature—tent and plug-in campsites are available to rent year-round, offering guests the opportunity to hike and bike 60 miles of trails, paddleboard in the lakes, or kayak through the swamp. Trails are open for horse riding, and lakes are stocked for fishing.
“Managing a property this large is a privilege that comes with an enormous amount of responsibility,” says Andrew Walker, the event and camping director.