Pee Dee Geography
The Pee Dee Basin
The Pee Dee region of South Carolina is generally thought of as an area connected to the Yadkin-Pee Dee River system, which originates in North Carolina. The Lynches, Great and Little Pee Dee, Black, and Waccamaw rivers of South Carolina are encompassed by drainage basins, or watersheds, that combine to form the geography of the greater Pee Dee watershed.
Ridges or high points on the land define the boundaries of a drainage basin. Within these boundaries, water flows downward to a common waterway such as a creek, river, or lake. The concept of a drainage basin is most easily demonstrated in mountainous areas where steep grades help mark its highest points. Precipitation in the basin collects in creeks and streams, flowing downward to its lowest area. In areas of flat relief closer to the coast of South Carolina, drainage basins are less obvious as water moves across the relatively flat terrain.
Smaller basins combine to form larger ones. The Pee Dee basin is a patchwork quilt of smaller basins, connected by a network of rivers and streams that cross the landscape of South Carolina. Major subbasins of the greater Pee Dee watershed include the Lynches, Black, Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee, and Coastal Frontage. Namesake rivers flow between the boundaries of these subbasins.
Basin: An area drained by a network of rivers and tributaries.
Drainage Divide: A ridge or high point on the land dividing two areas drained by different rivers.
Pee Dee Landforms
The Pee Dee Basin extends across the Piedmont, Sandhills, Coastal Plain, and Coastal Zone landform regions of the state. The Great Pee Dee River takes one on an adventure from an ancient mountain chain, past a prehistoric beach front, through the bottomlands of South Carolina, ending at the Atlantic Ocean in Winyah Bay. The geography of the river had much to do with patterns of human settlement and trade.
Landform: Natural features such as mountains, plateaus, and plains that characterize the earth’s surface.
Most scientists agree that humans migrated into the Southeast around 12,000 BCE. The Pee Dee River derives its name from the Pee Dee Indian tribe who lived, fished, hunted, traveled, and traded along its waters. It is believed that Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto may have met a party of Pee Dee Indians t in 1540 near present day Cheraw, South Carolina. In the early 18th century, colonial settlement established backcountry trading posts, parishes, districts, and townships that eventually transformed into a modern system of counties. Counties that touch the Pee Dee region include Florence, Horry, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Georgetown and Williamsburg. Throughout history, these areas have been connected culturally and economically by the Pee Dee river system, which once facilitated trade from the inland of South Carolina to its seaports.
Colonial settlement established commercial agriculture in the Pee Dee, a most fertile area of South Carolina thanks to dark, nutrient rich soil found across the Pee Dee flood plain. Timber was, and still is, a valuable commodity in this densely relatively undeveloped area of the state. The business and lifestyle of the Pee Dee at present is based on the business of agriculture, primarily peaches and timber in the Sandhills, and cotton, soybeans, tobacco, and peanuts in the coastal plain.
The Present: Land Use (SCGA)
Of the approximately two million acres of the Pee Dee River Basin, 36.0% is forested land, 23.0% is agricultural land, 19.6% is scrub/shrub land, 16.5% is forested wetland (swamp), 2.5% is urban land, 1.3% is water, 1.0% is nonforested wetland (marsh), and 0.2% is barren land (SCNEMO).
In terms of scale and land use, some consider the Pee Dee region the most natural and rural area in the state.
An understanding what it means to be from the Pee Dee goes beyond its physical geography. This Web site explores what makes the Pee Dee region of the state unique, from its earliest natural history to the past, present, and future of the people who live there. ..