It’s shortly after 11 a.m. in Canadys, South Carolina. The air is thick with mosquitoes and the promise of late-afternoon rain, but Anne Kennedy seems not to notice. She’s too busy rounding up supplies for the afternoon walk-through to come. Her dog Bear matches every stride, tentatively glancing up every so often, as though to make sure he doesn’t miss out on this daily ritual.
“Bear gets personally offended if he’s ever left behind,” Kennedy says with a laugh. “So I usually bring him along to visit the property.”
The “property” she’s referring to is a 100-acre- plus stretch of land owned by Kennedy and her husband Scott. This private slice of the Lowcountry brims with wildlife from the sandy shores of the Edisto River to the tiptops of the mighty oak trees: leatherback turtles, egrets, bobcats, and other creatures have called this place home for centuries. Look deeper and you’ll spot another of South Carolina’s natural gems: the Edisto River tree houses.
The trio of “Treehouse Island” homes, handcrafted by Scott Kennedy over 15 years, blend seamlessly into the folds of this thriving ecosystem. Kennedy sawed and shaped most of the wood materials himself, even cutting pathways around what was considered “waste” territory by the state. Unpredictable river flooding spurred the decision to build upward, and now the houses sit 16 feet high, cradled and perfectly shaded by the sturdy arms of surrounding live oaks. This choice to build with the environment instead of stifling it is, according to Anne Kennedy, just one of the elements that makes treehouse living so exceptional.
“We realized long ago how quickly natural resources can disappear and how important preservation is,” she says. “We love what we do, and we do it for fun. But we also believe in it.”
Though absent the luxuries of running water and electricity, the treehouses provide a rare and fleeting opportunity to untether from the constraints of daily life and build a more intimate appreciation with nature. Days—spent floating down the encircling river or exploring the vast web of trails—melt into evenings firing up the cabin’s propane grill and reading by candlelight in loft-style beds. Like an intoxicating brew, the more you drink in, the more you wish you had just one more night to spend on high.
“People cannot care about something that they haven’t experienced,” Kennedy explains. “One thing essential to our success now is how real and very close to nature you are in this place. That’s what has put us at the top of our field.”
And at the top of the trees.