A methodology for assessment of the potential impacts of extraction of energy associated with astronomical tides is described and applied to a site on the Beaufort River in coastal South Carolina, USA. Despite its name, the site features negligible freshwater inputs; like many in the region, it is a tidal estuary that resembles a river. A three-dimensional, numerical, hydrodynamic model was applied for a period exceeding a lunar month, allowing quantification of harmonic constituents of water level and velocity, and comparison to values derived from measurements, recorded at a location within the model domain. The measurement campaign included surveys of bathymetry and velocity fields during ebb and flood portions of a tidal cycle for model validation. Potential far-field impacts of a generic tidal energy conversion device were simulated by introducing an additional drag force in the model to enhance dissipation, resulting in 10–60% dissipation of the pre-existing kinetic power within a flow cross-section. The model reveals effects of the dissipation on water levels and velocities in adjacent areas, which are relatively small even at the 60% dissipation level. A method is presented to estimate the optimal vertical location for the energy conversion device and the potential power sacrificed by moving to a different altitude.