Lowcountry Pastimes: History of Kiawah River’s Water Management and Rice Trunk Gates

While serving as fertile ecosystems for hundreds of local species and acting as an essential part of nature, water (whether tidal marshes, rivers or rainfall) can also pose challenges for modern communities.  

Ranging from high-tech to old-fashioned, Kiawah River proactively preserves and manages its land and waterways with innovative techniques such as detention and retention basins, vegetated swales and engineered water-quality filters. The community also embraces unpaved and pervious roads wherever possible, which organically alleviate flood risks and allow for water to drain naturally.  

One of the many sustainability initiatives led by Kiawah River’s Chief Environmental Officer, Jeff Snyder, and possibly the most interesting tactic used to manage water and enhance the natural environment of the community, are the utilization of historic rice trunk gates.  

Originally used on farms and rice plantations throughout the Lowcountry, rice trunks have been utilized in agriculture for centuries. Jeff and the team at Kiawah River have installed 12 rice trunks within the community that control the flow of freshwater and saltwater and can be lifted to release water or lowered to drain it. Re-introducing rice trunks on this former antebellum rice field, Jeff has incorporated them into Kiawah River’s community as another way to benefit the property’s diverse marine and wildlife habitat – through increased oxygenation, reduced algae growth and regulated tidal water flows.  

Kiawah River is built on the foundation of embracing outdoor living, and working with nature to restore water quality  with rice trunk gates is just one of the many ways we do so. We are looking forward to sharing more about the history of Kiawah River’s land and the proactive steps our team takes to preserve it for generations to come.