The Black River takes its name from its tea-colored waters. The river begins in the Sandhills of Lee County and is joined by Rocky Bluff Swamp near Sumter. The Pocotaligo River flows into the Black between Manning and Kingstree. After traveling over 150 miles in Sumter, Clarendon, Williamsburg, and Georgetown Counties, the Black River becomes part of the Great Pee Dee River near Georgetown.
In Georgetown County, where the river becomes tidal, planters developed rice plantations along its banks, such as Kensington and Weehaw, which lasted from the middle of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. Some of these plantations, such as Richmond, also produced indigo before the Revolutionary War. Owners of Black River plantations included elite families of rice planters such as Allston, Kinloch, Middleton, and Cheves.
In some places the Black River is swamp like, while in others it is swift moving with a sandy bottom. With the exception of the town of Kingstree and the final stretch in Georgetown County, the banks of the Black River remain forested and largely undisturbed by development. Since the collapse of the rice culture, South Carolinians have mostly used the Black River basin as a resource for timbering, hunting, and fishing.
In 2001 seventy-five miles of the Black River in Clarendon, Williamsburg, and Georgetown Counties became a State Scenic River. Since then, efforts have been under way to protect the river from development and preserve its natural beauty and value as a wildlife habitat.