Blackwater Preserve: Statesboro’s Best Kept Secret

Tom Barszcz

Living in the small town of Statesboro can sometimes give the feeling like there’s not enough to do. Many students want more to do on the weekends while staying close to campus. If you feel this way, than fret not. Statesboro offers the opportunity to experience truly unique places that are only known by few, like the Blackwater Preserve.

Residing just off of Pulaski Highway, Blackwater Preserve is a beautiful and historic property of approximately 420 acres, only about six miles away from Georgia Southern’s campus. The property, which is backed by water and a Cypress Swamp, hosts a vast and unique ecosystem that’s enjoyable to observe and allows many activities like canoeing, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, hunting and camping.

When you enter the grounds of Blackwater, you are immediately greeted by the calming sound of running water. This sound is accompanied by the sweet smell of ancient cypress trees, and the gleaming reflection of the sun bouncing brightly off of the gentle water. With all of your senses pleased by the accumulation of these natural beauties, you can’t help but feel refreshed.

Christopher Stephens, a junior major from Druid Hills and Lindsey Sawyer, a sophomore chemistry major from Roswell, recently had their first experience at Blackwater.

“We got out there early in the morning,” Stephens said, “We got some canoes and some kayaks and just had a great time out on the water”.

“I didn’t know what to expect” Sawyer said, “I had no idea something that amazing was so close to Statesboro”.

Sawyer went on to explain what she meant by “amazing” but she was almost at a loss for words.

“It was just so peaceful and serene and you feel like you’re in your own world when you’re there. It’s so hard to describe. You just have to go see it for yourself.”

Dating back to the earlier part of the 19th century, the property was originally established as a grist mill, which was a site for grinding grain. It was originally known as McElveen Pond until it was purchased in 1960 by Strickland Holloway Sr., grandfather of the current owner, Strickland Holloway III. After obtaining ownership, the Holloway family decided to allow public access to the grounds for the first time since its existence, and changed the name to “Blackwater Preserve”. This was to show the public that the property was not only something the Holloway family wanted to share as a place for recreation, but also share in preserving the ecosystem that sustains it.

“When my dad bought the property back in the 1960’s we wanted to open it up to the public more so they could go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hunting and camping and just enjoy the beautiful nature that we have here”, Strickland Holloway Jr., the current marketing and sales director of Blackwater, said. “We want people to come out to explore and enjoy it, but at the same time preserve it.”

Blackwater Preserve currently offers memberships to the public, wherein one can pay a onetime fee to gain full access to the grounds at any time for a year. The Holloway’s decided to establish a membership system in order to create a community of people to go and enjoy the grounds whenever they wanted and witness how their fee aids to the preservation and even expansion to the property and unique ecosystem.

“By being a member, or by coming out and partaking in one of the activities we have to offer, will provide us with the money to continue to preserve the property but also help in adding to it,” Holloway said.

Holloway believes that with proper funding, they will be able to build a lodge for private parties, cabins for hunters and campers, and eventually a museum to display the antique farming tools that were once actually operated in the original grist mill.

Holloway Jr. encourages Georgia Southern students to come out and enjoy Blackwater. He explained that they now offer semester memberships to students at a fee of $60, or a daily rate to those who want to explore Blackwater for a day, just to see what it’s about. Daily rates vary depending on which activity you want to do.

“I want Blackwater to be a home away from home for students. A place where students can feel safe and enjoy on a daily basis without spending a lot of money,” Holloway said.

For more information, visit