Rock Hill Blackjacks H.P.

I never thought to find a bit of the prairie in the state of South Carolina. Yet Rock Hill Blackjacks Heritage Preserve boasts the last remaining portion of what once was a larger bit of ancient prairie. You’ll also find wetlands, swamp lands, and forest. It’s a real potpourri of eco-systems. The preserve sits on the outskirts of Rock Hill and covers 291 acres. The name of the preserve comes from the blackjack oaks that grow here.

It’d been raining the days before, so the track was muddy and with puddles. I will admit, my first impression was not good. People dump trash along the road and there was a broken television set sitting in the parking lot right where the trail begins. Fortunately, further in, I didn’t see notice anymore garbage.

As there is a hunting season here, check on-line for the dates and hike off season or wear orange. The wildflowers bloom here in the late summer and fall, which gives me another excuse to visit again.

How to Get There:
Exit 73 on I-77 at Rock Hill: Drive northwest on SC 901 and turn right onto Allbright Rd/SC121. After the fire station, make a left on Blackmon Road. Look for the small parking lot on the right. It’s not far down the road.


What’s Close By:
Rock Hill and its parks (Glencairn Garden, Piedmont Medical Center Trail, etc.)
Anne Springs Close Greenway
River Park


Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

Once upon a time, this place was the site of a bustling town. Not much remains. There’s a designated self-guided walking tour, but I kept seeing interesting things and went my own way after awhile. The scale model on the path from the parking lot to the Ashley River is a good starting point. It shows how the settlement looked like in the 1700’s.

It’s hard to image that this flourishing settlement, settled in the 1690’s, lasted less than a hundred years. After the Revolutionary War, the church was in ruins and only bits of houses remained. Even the history of the place became muddled. Some people thought it’d been occupied by the Spanish.

Standing at the edge of the Ashley River, on the cold November morning, it was hard to imagine ships used to sail to here and load and unload supplies and crops. Stop awhile and watch the birds. Upriver a ways a heron stood close to the reeds.

Not far from the river, stands the walls of the old fort. It’s made from tabby (oyster shell, lime, and sand). Go up close and you can see the shells. This is one of the few remaining structures left of Dorchester. Walk further and you’ll find one of the cool features of the park, the on-going archeological digs.

This picture shows a foundation of a house being excavated.

The iconic image of Colonial Dorchester is the bell tower of St. George’s Church. The church itself was completed in the late 1710’s. The bell tower was added later, around 1750. During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied the area and burned the church. The tower was damaged further in the 1886 Charleston earthquake. While the crack was mended so the upper portion wouldn’t fall, it wasn’t restored until the 1960’s.

Several reasons are offered for the demise of Dorchester. The Revolutionary War wasn’t kind to the town, plus its location, in swampy land, was not ideal. Mosquitoes carried malaria, a scrounge at the time.

The park is 325 acres. There is a fee to visit. Check the website for details and for special events.

How to Get There:
It is right off SC642/Dorchester Rd on State Park Rd. There’s a sign.


What’s Close By:
Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway
Rosebrock Park


Rosebrock Park

This small park in Dorchester County offers a nice hike through the woods to and along the Ashley River. It’s an in-and-out, with a loop at the end, more like a network of short paths really. The official website mentions four trails: Canal Spur (.1 miles), Live Oak Trail (.8 miles), Lot Loop Trail (.1 miles), and the Swamp Fox Trail (.3 miles). You can mix and match as you wish. They’re all well marked. Just look for the sign on the trees.

The Live Oak Trail parallels SC165 and you can hear the traffic there, a downside, but the walk really is nice. Along the way read about the history of the area and the surrounding nature via the eleven interpretive panels. If you want more information, they include QR codes. One of the more interesting things I learned, was about the twenty-three mile long, hand excavated tunnel that runs through here. Built between 1928-37, it carries water from the Edisto River to Hanahan Pumping Station that provides, to this day, water to the city of Charleston.

On the day I visited, a lizard shed his skin on the kiosk, losing it just before I took this picture.

There’s .25 miles of trail along the Ashley River

The park is open dawn to dusk. There’s a picnic shelter too. The park is free

How to Get There:
507 Beech Hill Rd. It’s just west of the SC61 and SC165 intersection on SC61.


What’s Close By:
Colonial Dorchester SHS

Barnwell State Park

Barnwell State Park may be known more for its fishing, but I quite enjoyed tramping around the lake and the woods as well as watching the birds. One was an egret and the other a woodpecker.

It took me three tries to get to this park. The first two times, my journey was thwarted, but this place was well worth the wait.
The park is 307 acres and is located in Barnwell County between the city of Barnwell and Blackville. Besides fishing, there are cabins, camping, a sports area, and trails. The official website only lists one, the Dogwood Interpretive Trail, aka the Nature Trail, but there is also the Fernhill Trail which features a network of trails through the woods above the main lake. Both are an easy hike and I found them enjoyable.

This park is one of the sixteen SC state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. In 1937, land was purchased from several owners to create it. There are small lakes and very pretty tiered spillway. These, a pumphouse, and the two picnic shelters were built by the CCC.

How to Get There:
Located off SC3 between Barnwell and Blackville


What’s Close By

Timmerman Trail

I first heard about this trail in a newspaper article. Since my sister was in town, I took her along, needing something outdoors to do over the Christmas holidays. It was end of December, but it wasn’t overly cold. The trail is paved, which is nice, although it’s harder on the feet. Still, this makes it wheelchair accessible. The trail winds through the woods just outside the city of Cayce in Lexington County.

This is part of the Cayce Riverwalk, so, if you feel the need to continue, go for it. The Timmerman Trail was built and is maintained by the SCANA Corporation. The parking lot for the trail is right by their headquarters. From there, you pass under a bridge and follow the Congaree Creek to the Congaree River.

We took a side route that passes Civil War earthworks (1865). This were built to try and stop General Sherman from marching into Columbia. They were built by African-Americans, slaves and freemen pressed into service. There’s a marker there to explain.


From the earthworks, we continued on, eventually reaching the Congaree River. On our way back, we spotted a carved raccoon peeping out of the log. There are more carvings along the Riverwalk. While there are snakes and alligators here, we didn’t see them. Maybe we just didn’t look hard enough.

How to Get There:
Take exit 2 off I77, and head north. Turn left on SCANA Parkway and take the first right. That’s the parking lot for the trail.


What’s Close By:
Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve
Congaree National Park
Cayce Riverwalk

Congaree Bluff Heritage Preserve

I wandered over here shortly after some major flooding so the Congaree River was pretty high. At the nearby Bates Landing, water came up into the parking lot. Despite that, I still managed to get down from the bluff and take the trail along the river. Having never been there when the water is lower, I can’t say how it usually looks.

The web site describes this preserve as having steep, undisturbed bluffs and this is certainly the case. They have an overlook, an observation deck, with fantastic views of Congaree National Park and a canopy carpet of trees of the Congaree River plain. The trails here go through bottomland hardwood forest.

There are three trails here. They range from easy to strenuous. There’s the Ravine Walk (1.5 miles long), the Observation Walk (half a miles long), and the one mile long Bluff-River Walk. They are all networked together so you can pick and choose where you go and possibly walk along all three like I did. The Bluff-River Walk goes down a steep and uneven trail to the river. I thought it well worth it.

No bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed. This being a heritage preserve no plants or animals can be removed. Bring the bug spray.


How to Get There:
From US601, north on SC419, pass through Fort Motte. about a mile from Fort Motte, right on Turkey Track Lane. The preserve is on the left. There's parking at about a half mile in and another at one mile.


What’s Close By:
Congaree National Park
Bates Landing on US601

Hickory Knob State Resort Area

I can’t believe I only have three pictures of this park. Well, it is, what it is. The temperature was a bit on the high side, near 100, so I didn’t venture far out, but I was in the area and I did want to see the Guillebeau House, which is located in the park. I didn’t know it’s now being used as a cabin.

The park is quite impressive with tons of things to do from swimming, fishing, golf, hiking, boating (there are canoe and kayak rentals available), tennis, archery, skeet shooting and more. They even rent fishing gear.

Hickory Knob is the only state park resort park in the South Carolina. Sitting on Lake Strom Thurmond, it covers over a thousand acres. Add the 70,000+ acre lake and you’ve got a lot of room to play. Being a resort, the park offers amenities other parks don’t offer like a motel (lodge) and restaurant. The restaurant serves buffet style and can seat up to a hundred-and-fifty people.

As said, it was hot the day I went. Despite the heat, I took a slow stroll around, making my way from the parking spot by the tennis courts to the Guillebeau house, passing the golf course with its views of bits of Lake Thurmond. The cabin was built around the 1760’s by French Huguenot settler Andre Guillebeau.

There were seven French Huguenot colonies in SC. I never knew this until I scouted out the area on the map. That’s what I like about traveling, you’re always learning something new. The Huguenots fled Europe for the same reason the Pilgrims did, for religious freedom. They were granted land near here by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Reverend Jean Louis Gibert really wanted to go to Ohio, to grow grapes, but they ended up here. His attempt to grow grapes along the Savannah River didn’t pan out.

Back to the cabin, it was moved here around 1983 and now one can rent it. I have to say that I was a tad disappointed because it looks just like a regular cabin and not a two hundred and fifty year plus home.

Some of the activities are for cabin and lodge guests only such as the swimming pool. Check the website for more information. The hike and bike trails are open to all. They add up to about twelve miles of trails. The three are: Beaver Run (2.5 miles) and Turkey Ridge (1.7 miles) Trails and Lakeview Loop (7.2). Or you can walk around along the roads, which I did. Do not jog when it’s hot. I watched a red-faced man puff by me when I was driving and I sincerely hope he didn’t keel over.

Note: In order to fish one needs a valid South Carolina fishing license. The Tackle Loaner Program, sponsored by the SC Department of Natural Resources (give them a hurrah), make rods and reels available at the park office.


How to Get There:

From US378, head north on Huguenot Parkway/Rd7. Then it’s left on Resort Drive.




What’s Close By:

Baker Creek State Park

Leroy’s Ferry Recreation Area


Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

It was a hot June day when I drove into Hampton Plantation. Nonplussed by the heat, I first got the stamp for my State Park book, then marched over to the plantation house. It is quite impressive. Straight out of the movies, or, I guess I should say, right out of the history books. It’s a massive affair, two-and-a-half stories high up on a raised foundation. With its porch and columns one can almost expect people dressed in the latest antebellum fashion to come walking out.

I walked under the porch and found it nice and cool. This is where I’d hang out on hot and sticky days.

The plantation was established way back in 1735, at the same time the house was built. The owner was a Frenchman, a French Huguenot, by the name of Noe Serre. At that time, the place was a two-story with a central. A later owner, Daniel Horry, expanded the building even adding a two-story ballroom! Other famous owners include the Pinckney and Rutledge families. Archibald Rutledge, SC’s first state poet laureate, was the last private owner. In 1971, it was acquired by the state.

One can tour the house, there’s a fee, but I opted not. I wanted to explore the grounds. It’s the remains of a colonial-era rice plantation. Most of the rice fields have reverted back to its natural state. It’s free to wander the grounds.

From the rear of the house, I wandered down a path toward Wambaw Creek and the remnants of those rice fields. There’s a two-mile loop trail, the Hampton Plantation Nature trail that circles an abandoned field. There’s a cool art/interpretive piece that allows one to see a slave cabin in the woods.


How to Get There:
From US17, south of the Santee River, turn west onto RD857.

What's Close By:
Santee Delta WMA
Francis Marion NF
Cape Romain NWR

Little Pee Dee State Park

The ‘little’ in Little Pee Dee State Park refers to the Little Pee Dee River, not the size of the park. There’s plenty to do here. Although, sadly, not fishing in Lake Norton as Hurricane Matthew caused the dam to breech and there is no water in it. Nor can there be boats rented out. But!!! Don’t let that stop you from visiting. See the power of a hurricane and let it be a teachable moment to the little ones.

Luckily, when I visited, I did get to see the lake and walk across the dam. I found the ‘Selfie Station’ by the visitor center, a unique way for visitors to document their visit.

The park is located in the South Carolina Sandhills region which is noted for the sand. Once, a long time ago, millions of years, this was the coast. This sand is left over from the ocean receded.

To see and explore and view in the park is the Little Pee Dee River swamp and a Carolina Bay, a geological depression only found in the coastal plains of the Atlantic. Many have been farmed over, but there are a number in SC and one is here.

There’s camping here and you can picnic and hike the .7 mile Beaver Pond Nature Trail. Admission to this park is free, it’s close to I95, so there’s no excuse not to visit.


How to Get There:
From US501 in Dillon, head east on East Main Street and take a right on SC57. Past Floydale, go left on State Park Rd/RD22.
What's Close By:
Little Pee Dee State Park Heritage Preserve
Little Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve

Old Shelton Church

Old Sheldon Church sits on a country road where trees draped with Spanish Moss arc overhead. Blink and you might miss the site as it’s only ruins, so go slow. I’ve visited it often as it was on my way to Beaufort.

The last time I went by, it was a lovely day. It was early in the morning and the sun shone soft as honey on the trees and ruins of the old church. It was such a pretty day, one that ended with me having a flat tire and despairing how I was going to get home. I did. That’s why I keep an air compressor in my car. One of the best $12.99 I’ve invested. I highly recommend getting one.

Back to Old Sheldon Church. It was built between 1745 and 1755 as Prince William’s Parish Church. Despite that the roof is gone and the interior and windows, one can still see its Greek Revival design. During the Revolutionary War, in the year 1779, the British burned the church believing the Patriots stored gun power in it. It was rebuilt in 1826, around the three-foot walls, and then burnt again during the Civil War.

It was said Sherman’s troops burned it during his march through the south, but a recently found letter from 1866, written by Miton Leverett to his mother says it wasn’t burnt, just gutted inside and it was repairable. Why it never was, I don’t know.

Besides the imposing columns and walls, the grounds are impressive as well with old oak trees gracing the grounds. Around the church are grave stones. The whole place makes for a great picture taking opportunity.

Ghost tales abound here too, strange accounts of footsteps and flashing lights, and sights of apparitions like the woman standing over an infant’s grave.

How to Get There:
Old Sheldon Church Rd
From I95, exit? onto SC68 and head toward Yemassee. SC68 turns into Castle Hall Rd, make a left on Old Sheldon Church Rd. The ruins are aways down on the left.
What's Close By:
Donnelley WMA