Three Rivers Greenway

Three Rivers Greenway is more than what lies in Richland County, which is already quite a bit. There’s also a good chunk in Lexington County in West Columbia and Cayce. But this post will be on the Richland County side.

The three rivers in the title refer to the Broad, Saluda, and Congaree Rivers. The latter is created by the Broad and Saluda. The northernmost point of the greenway can be accessed north of Broad River Road. At the parking lot you can see the lock that starts the Columbia canal. Walk across that and you can see the diversion dam. It’s a nice walk through the woods on the island especially on a hot day. From here you can walk all the way to Riverfront Park in downtown Columbia. Unfortunately due to the 2015 flood, part of the canal on which the walkway ran is gone so it’s not possible to get to the Gervais Street Bridge and the State Museum.

Further South, though, is Granby Park. It’s located at the end of Catawba. Here the trail continues, swooping into the Olympia and Granby Mill area and through Olympia Park before puttering out. While part isn’t along the river, it is still a nice walk through a historic mill village and mills. In Olympia Park I was lucky enough to catch sight of a blue heron.

The walkways on the river are lighted and paved with boardwalks and overlooks. You can walk, run, or ride your bicycle. It is also wheelchair accessible. It is currently twelve and a half miles long and growing. At this time they are working on a segment on the Richland County side of the Saluda River, along the zoo.

 

Link:

http://riveralliance.org/project/three-rivers-greenway/

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Myrtle Beach State Park

Over time the city of Myrtle Beach has crept up on this park, but it still remains an oasis from the hustle bustle. If you camp here a week, which we’ve done, checking out Myrtle Beach and its tourist amenities are part of the trip.

On my last trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, I got in early morning while the sun still stretched long shadows across the ground. If you don’t like battling traffic, early morning is the best time to get around. They were just setting up for the beach crowd as I moseyed to the long pier. Fishermen and women already staked their spots on it, poles out, waiting for that nibble. Here’s a great spot to see the sun come up.

There’s a lot the park has to offer besides swimming and fishing. There’s biking, hiking, birding, and camping. They have 350 campsites and a few cabins for rent. If you little ones, partake in the scavenger hunt. You don’t have to be a child to do it, it’s for all ages. Each takes about an hour and each qualify for the Habitat Patch which is only available here.

Besides the one mile beach, there are two trails, the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail and Yaupon Trail. Both are easy. The former is half a mile long and the latter .4 miles. You can combine the two for a longer hike if you want. The Sculptured Oak Nature trail takes you through one of the last stands of maritime forests in this part of South Carolina and it’s a Heritage Trust site. When you walk along the beach, take note of the sand dunes system and the sea oats.

This park was one of the first parks in SC, opening in 1936. It was built by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corp, which built so many parks during that period.

There is a fee to enter the park. Check the website as prices vary throughout the year.

How to Get There

Located off US17 BUS/S. Kings Hwy

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/myrtlebeach/introduction.aspx

http://www.myrtlebeachstatepark.net/

What’s Close By:

Huntington Beach

Myrtle Beach

Georgetown

Brookgreen Gardens

Riverbanks Zoo

Even though this blog highlights sights of no or low cost places, I have to include Riverbanks Zoo.

I’ve been going to this zoo since it opened way back in 1974 and it’s well worth a visit. Check out the web page for specials. There are special two-for-one days when one brings a canned food item(s) and in January and February they have free Fridays for those who live in Richland and Lexington counties. If you don’t live here, maybe you know someone who does.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is located in both Richland and Lexington counties on the Saluda River off I-126. The zoo portion is in Richland and the botanical garden is in West Columbia, in Lexington County. A bridge over the river connects the two. On the zoo side, they’ve recently remodeled the entrance and added new exhibits like the sea lions.

There’s koalas, flamingos, gorillas, elephants, bears, lions, monkeys, and more, more, more. There’s a petting zoo with farm animals, there’s a merry-go-round, there’s Waterfall junction in the botanical garden where kids can play. I’d never seen that until this year and wished I was years younger so I could play there. I did anyway a bit when no one was around.

When I first came to live in SC, way back when, the zoo was still in the making. The first animal, Happy the tiger lived in a cage on Gervais Street. I think it was an Exxon station and a garage. That’s long gone now.

When the zoo opened we ‘adopted’ a Toucan and were Zoo members. How’s it changed since then and yet there are bits I remember from the old days like the small animal exhibit that’s like a long cave. You can play find-the-animal in some of those.

There is a gigantic birdhouse where birds live in a variety of ecosystems. They have penguins too. There’s the Aquarium Reptile Complex, where I can hours. Like the birdhouse, the complex shows fish in their various ecosystems, which in this case is the ocean, desert, tropics, and South Carolina. They even have sharks.

Riverbanks zoo is Columbia’s number one tourist attraction and is ranked as one of American’s top zoos. If you can, stop by and visit. It’s well worth the trips.

How to Get There:

It’s right off I-126 at Greystone Bvld.

 

Links:

https://www.riverbanks.org/

 

What’s Close By:

Downtown Columbia

Lake Murray

Dreher Island State Park

I think the first time I went to Dreher Island SP was to attend a picnic. Who’s picnic I can’t remember. I didn’t come here often because it’s a bit of a drive. The park is situated on Lake Murray, where it’s not so heavily developed. It is made up of three islands all connected by bridges and one causeway. On my last trip I stopped on the first island at the park store area. I wanted to get a picture of those huge beach chairs. There’s a huge anchor as nearby too. From the parking lot I strolled out toward one of the bridges and looked out toward the lake. It was a short, but pleasant walk.

A nicer walk is the Little Gap Trail. it’s 2.1 miles long. It’s further in at shelter # 7. A side trail from this took me to this pleasant overlook below. Besides this trail there is a short nature trail and a multiuse trail that runs through the loop. I found it interesting the park has wild geraniums. I have to go back when they are in bloom. I’ve only seen the ones in flower pots.

Dreher Island State Park was first leased from SCE&G in the 1970’s. I couldn’t find much else on the history of the park. It’s 348 acres and offers twelve miles of shoreline. You can go fishing, hiking, and birdwatching. You can spend the night in villas. I didn’t see them so I don’t know what they look like. I do know they are lakeside. One can rent shelters including tournament shelters for fishing tournaments. I’d never heard of this before, but then I don’t fish.

There’s camping in the park too. The park doesn’t have any designated swimming areas. Swimming is at your own risk. Please keep an eye on the little ones.

How To Get There:

From I26, take exit 91 and drive west toward Chapin. Turn right onto US76. You’ll be on this for a very short while before making a left on St. Peter’s Church Rd (Road 29). There should be signs from then on. You’ll make a left onto Dreher Island Rd (Rd 231) and another left on State Park Rd.

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/dreherisland/introduction.aspx

What’s Close By:

All of Lake Murray is right here. There are several parks for swimming around the lake.

The towns of Columbia, Newberry, and Lexington are not far.

Goodale State Park

The Cypress trees standing in the waters of the lake are amazing. Breathtaking. As I took pictures I imagined myself a fashion photographer shooting beautiful models. Stand still. Perfect. Cloud, move more to the right. Fantastic.

Goodale State Park is not the largest of parks, it is 763 acres, but it’s impressive with a 140 acre lake, The Adam’s Grist mill pond from the Civil War times. They rent boats and canoes so one can partake in the three mile canoe trail that goes through the cypress strand. Besides the canoe trail there is a one-mile foot trail, a nature trail. Or walk along the lake which is the first thing I did so I could pictures of the it.

 

How to get there:

From I-20, exit 98 onto US521 toward Camden. In Camden turn right on US1/DeKalb St. Go about three miles and make another right onto Stagecoat Road. After 2.3 miles turn left onto Park Rd and look for the signs.

 

Links

http://southcarolinaparks.com/goodale/introduction.aspx

 

What’s Close by

Town of Camden

Battle of Camden Site

Hamilton Branch State Park

I enjoyed my walk around the Hamilton Branch State Park, a peninsula jutting out into Lake Thurmond. I strolled along the water’s edge marveling at the red rock. It was a picture taking paradise and a blue butterfly obliged by wanting its picture taken. There were ducks and geese. And other birds, but I’m a lousy bird watcher so I’m not quite sure what kind. On the other side of the peninsula, the rocky shoreline makes a gentle arc around the bay. Tall pines shade the road leading into the park and the wind blowing through swept out the heat. It was July when I visited so you know it was hot, but not in the 100s thank goodness, but a balmy high 80’s that would eventually rise into the low-middle 90’s.

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Hamilton Branch may be the smallest of the three parks nestled in the woods along Lake Thurmond, but it’s plenty big enough at around 730ish acres. It offers about 286 campsites that I’m told fill up fast in the summer. 171 of those have water and electricity while the rest have 50 amp service. Plus there is primitive group camping AND, I was very happy to see this, 13 camp sites with water. I stress the latter because there’s where I like to camp. I don’t like parking between the behemouths.

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While this park doesn’t have much in the way of formal hiking, you can walk take the 1.5 mile Paleo Hiking trail or, if you have a bike, there’s a connector to the 12-mile Stevens Creek Bike Trail. The former takes one through the forest where a variety of animals live.

Other ammenities are picnic shelters (3), fishing, two boat ramps, swimming, and a playground for the little ones.

 

How to get There

The park’s physical address is 111 Campground Rd, Plum Branch, SC.

Located on US #221 / SC #28 between Modoc and Parksville, 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of McCormick, SC.

 

Links

http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/hamiltonbranch/introduction.aspx

 

What’s close by

 

Lake Thurmond Visitor Center

The city of McCormick

Baker Creek State Park

Sandhills State Forest

I felt compelled to visit Sandhills State Forest upon hearing about Sugar Loaf mountain. The idea of a mountain in this part of the state intrigued me. Not that I expected a full blown mountain there, but I did picture a tall outcropping of rock. The forest is located in Chesterfield County, close to Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and I set out to visit both to get the lay of the land. I found that it takes more than a day to properly visit both.

Since my initial goal was the ‘mountain’ I took Gas Line Road (from US1, north on Hartsville-Ruby Road and right on Gas Line, a dirt road) Sugar Loaf is a ways in the forest. Drive slow as there are horse trails in the forest.

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Having never been here before, I took the first hill I came to and climbed up the steps thus finding myself on Horseshoe Mountain instead. No worries though, it was a nice hike. The trail on the ridge leads by big boulders and great views. When ascending or descending the mountains, use the steps to lessen erosion.

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Next I climbed Sugar Loaf. There’s a platform on top that offers really nice views of the surrounding area. Definitely worth the trip.

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Sugar Loaf Mountain stand a hundred feet above the rest of the area. It’s made of sand deposited by a historic sea and was at one time capped with ferrous sandstone. That ‘topping’ has pretty much eroded away. It’s and unusual geologic feature with plants not usually found in the piedmont area like mountain laurel.

Sand Hills State Forest stretches throughout Chesterfield and Darlington counties. Most of it is along US1 and there’s a big section between US1 and US15. It’s over 46,000 acres of infertile land that the federal government bought under the Resettlement Administration. The landowners were resettled on fertile land.

Hiking is free. There is a fee to ride your horse, for horseback riding. Check in regards to hunting and fishing. There are 13 fish ponds open year round. No ATV’s are allowed. Camping allowed. Check for prices.

Headquarters for the forest, where you can get maps, is located at 16218 Highway 1, Patrick SC

How To Get There:

US 1 goes right by and through the State Forest. Sugar Loaf Mountain can be reached from Hartsville-Ruby Road.

Links:

https://www.state.sc.us/forest/refshill.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWYq6RnNm8A

What’s Close By:

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge

Cheraw State Park

Cheraw

H. Cooper Black Jr. Recreation Area.

Columbia Resources

I was surprised to find there are so little resources on tourist places in Columbia. Even the web sites didn’t do much for me although they offered some tidbits. Maybe because I already knew the sites they highlight. Maybe because they didn’t offer information on what I am interested in – low cost/no cost activities, walking tours, green spaces, and historical areas. The brochures I picked up at the visitor center are more chock full of ‘stuff’ than the websites. Book wise was the pretty much the same as the websites, general information only and emphasis on restaurants, shopping, and the higher priced activities.

Book wise the South Carolina travel books will have to do, but the websites are a better alternative.

 

Brochure Names (with associated web address)

Columbia South Carolina 5km/10km Historic Capital City Walk (www.columbiacvb.com)

General Sherman’s March on Columbia, South Carolina – Self Guided Tour (www.shermansmarch.com)

Home Places, Work Places, Resting Places: African-American Heritage Sites Tour (historiccolumbia.org)

Three Rivers Greenway (www.RiverAlliance.org)

 

Web Sites

http://www.columbiacvb.com/

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/richland-county/

Aiken State Park

I visited the park in winter and was kind of hoping the mosquitoes weren’t so prevalent. But this was a few months past the historic 2015 flood and that might explain the number of those insects out for my blood. Bring bug spray. But don’t avoid the park. It has some very nice trails running through including a canoe trail along the South Edisto River. I don’t have a canoe, but you can rent one there. At the moment canoe rentals are only for the lake so check the website to see when they are offering rentals again.

aiken-aiken-sp-19-edisto-river

I like to start my forays in the park at the visitor center, to get a map and a stamp for the Ultimate Outsider book. From there I viewed the lakes and started out on a trail, going deep (okay so not so deep in the woods, but it sure looks like from within). My interest was piqued by name of one of the trails, the Jungle trail and I had to investigate. I mean, who doesn’t want to walk the Jungle trail. Despite the mosquitoes it was a fun hike. It really did look like a jungle. I ended up walking partway on the road that winds through the park in order to see the boat launch. I had to see the South Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America.

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The park is interesting too because it was built by African Americans employed by the Civilian Conservation Corp of the Great Depression. Check out the exhibit.

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How to Get there

Located on SC53. From I20, take exit 33 toward Wagener on SC39. Turn right on SC302 (in Wagener),then straight onto SC53 (SC302 will make a sharp right, you go straight.)

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/aiken/introduction.aspx

What’s Close by:

Aiken

Hitchcock Woods

Hopeland Gardens

Fall

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I realize I’m a little behind here talking about fall colors, but maybe there’ll still be some color when this piece is published. Fall is a great time to take daytrips. You don’t even have to go that far, just drive around town and admire the trees in people’s yards. In Chester I saw the most spectacular sights of bright yellow leaves under a bare tree. It was like shards of the sun had fallen. Didn’t get a picture of that, but did get another nice fall view there.

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Chester State Park

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Sesquicentennial State Park (Columbia)

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On a stone wall around Old Brick Church in Fairfield County

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Also in Chester County, in the town of Chester, Brainard Institute