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.

Links:
https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/101

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

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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.

 

Links:

https://southcarolinaparks.com/hickory-knob

 

What’s Close By:

Baker Creek State Park

Leroy’s Ferry Recreation Area

McCormick

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.

Links:
https://southcarolinaparks.com/hampton
What's Close By:
Santee Delta WMA
Georgetown
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.
Links:
https://southcarolinaparks.com/little-pee-dee
What's Close By:
Little Pee Dee State Park Heritage Preserve
Little Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve
Mullins
Dillon

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.
Links:
https://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/beaufort-county/old-sheldon-church.html
What's Close By:
Beaufort
ACE Basin NWR
Donnelley WMA
Walterboro

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

I hit Musgrove Mill at an unfortunate time for me. I’d sprained my ankle a few weeks earlier and was wearing a brace. That pretty much blew it for me hiking wise, although I managed to hobble a few steps anyway. More than a few steps really and I would have gone more, but sanity kicked in. I can always come back later and take the longer trails. A trip to Greenville was what brought me by the park since it sits a short drive off I26. I’d seen the sign for years, and now, desperate to visit a new park after having to stay close to Columbia, I stopped. A badly sprained ankle was not going to stop me.

The park sits along the Enoree river and sprawls into Laurens, Spartenburg, and Union counties. Most of the park is in Laurens. It’s on the site of the Revolutionary War battle, the Battle of Musgrove Mill. The date was the 19th of August, 1780. With the numbers of their side, the British loyalists thought it an easy victory, but the Patriot militia rallied and won the skirmish. The details of the battle are told in the visitor center and along the trails. I can’t do it justice here. Most of the fighting took place along the Enoree River.

The battle took place after the devastating loss in Camden and so was a turning point for the Americans.

Make sure to visit the visitor center to learn more. There are special events throughout the year, so check out the website for those. One of the activities is trying on a uniform. That would make a nice selfie.

There wasn’t anything going on when I visited, and after visiting the visitor center, I hobbled over to the gaze at ruins of the old house, then to the start of a trail where I decided it really was too far to go on my ankle. A pity.

There are two trails, both easy. The British Camp Trail is one mile and the Battlefield Trail is a little more at one point three miles. The former starts at the parking lot by the visitor center and the latter starts at the parking area on Horseshoe Falls Road on the other side of the Enoree River.

One has to drive to the falls on the other side of the river. It’s not far and it’s worth it. The falls are not far from the parking lot. I made it easy.

To visit the park is free and it’s open daily 9 am – 6pm

How to Get There:

From I26, exit 52 and go northeast on SC56. To get to the waterfall, drive over the Enoree River and turn left onto Horsehoe Falls Road.

Links:

https://southcarolinaparks.com/musgrove-mill

What’s Close By:

  • Sumter National Forest
  • Rose Hill Plantation S.H.S.
  • Laurens Historic District
  • Clinton Historic Commercial District

SC174 Scenic Road – Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

 

Back in the 1970’s, when we drove from Columbia to Edisto Beach, it seemed like this stretch lasted forever. Like we’d entered the Twilight Zone and were doomed to go over the same stretch of road forever.

In my defense, I was a bored teen and we’d been on the road for hours, or so it felt.

It didn’t feel like that this time. I took in all the sights (and the road of course since I didn’t want to have an accident) and stopped at places of interest along the way.

This section of road, from the Mckinley Washington Bridge at Dawhoo Creek to Edisto Beach State Park became a South Carolina scenic byway in 1988. A little over twenty years later, 2009, the seventeen mile segment became a National Scenic Byway. Along the way, the road passes maritime forests, salt marshes and creeks, and historical sites. It pretty much represents the barrier island landscape typical of the southern South Carolina coast.

There’s a lot to see, more than one would imagine for a seventeen mile stretch especially if you want to take a proper look see.

 Oak Avenue to Botany Bay

In my day trip, I didn’t get to see all of it. My priority of the day was Botany Bay WMA and that took up most of day. It is well worth lingering over. I stopped at three historic churches, wandered a bit through Edisto Beach, the town, and took in the Intracoastal Waterway from the boat ramp at the bridge. I didn’t get to the state park, but I’ve been before, nor the aquarium or the museum. All of those cost a fee. The State Park is well worth the money, but I had to go home.

Edisto Island Presbyterian Church

The Mystery Tree

If you are able to camp or get a cabin at the state park, please take your time in visiting the places around here.

From SC174 you can visit :

  • Botany Bay
  • Edisto Beach State Park
  • Edisto Beach
  • Edisto Island Baptist Church
  • Edisto Island Presbyterian Church (oldest congregation in continuous existence in SC)
  • Mystery Tree
  • Old First Baptist Church

Zion Reformed Church

There’s also the Edisto Island Museum and the Serpenterian. Look online for hours and fees.

How to Get There:

From US17, drive south on SC174. It is west of Charleston.

Links:

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/73595

What’s Close By:

  • ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dungannon Heritage Preserve
  • Caw Caw Interpretive Center
  • Charleston

Santee State Park

It was a coolish day when I went to visit this park, perfect for hiking and wandering around My first stop was the visitor center to get my booklet stamped so I can become an Ultimate Outsider. (If you don’t know about the program, go to the SC State Park website or wander into a state park to ask a ranger.) From there I hiked to the gift shop. Next to it is a pier that stretches out into Lake Marion. After partaking in the views of the lake I decided to buy some ice cream. Despite the cool temperature, I thought that would hit the spot. The shop was closed that day. I guess that was a sign I didn’t need ice cream after all and should save my money. Still, I was disappointed.

I’d wanted to take the Sinkhole Pond Trail, but it was closed at the time. I’d never have guessed this area was riddled with sinkholes. They form when the limestone located under the surface erode. Since I couldn’t take that one, I ended up on the Limestone Nature Trail and got a little more adventure than I bargained for.

Santee State Park is located in what’s called Santee Cooper Country and sits along Lake Marion, a popular fishing lake. The park is know for its rondette cabins that sit on piers over the lake. In addition to those ten cabins are 20 more cabins and multiple campsites. I have to say it must be pretty cool to sleep over the water. I made a detour to see them for myself.

The park is packed with activities including swimming, fishing, and picnicing as well as hiking and biking. You can take a pontoon boat tour of the flooded cypress forest created when Lake Marion was formed.

Besides the Sinkhole and the Limestone Trail there is a 7 1/2 half mile hike and bike trail, which starts near the entrance of the campground. The Oak Pinolly Trail is an easy one mile in and out, with a loop, trail.

The Limestone Nature Trail is described as making one feel as is one is at the mountains. The suggested wildlife that may be seen are deer, rabbits, and snakes. I mention these for a reason. After crossing a very nice bridge over a creek, I turned left, on the trail, to walk along the creek, which met with another creek, and the trail turned to follow that. An odd bit of green caught my eye. As my brain processed where I’d seen that green before, the shape flowed into the water. There was another small splash behind me. Alligators. So much for the mountain feel.

I stood there a moment. Part of me went: darn, I missed taking a picture. And another part of me thought: where do I go now? I ended up going straight, knowing I was too early for alligators to be aggressive, but still, it was a little too close for me.

So, word up, there are alligators in the park and be cautious on this trail especially if have little ones.

There is a fee to use the park

 

How To Get There:

Take I-95 to exit #98 and go west on SC #6 for 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles), then turn right onto road #105. Go north on this road to the park entrance.

Links:

https://southcarolinaparks.com/santee

What’s Close By:

Lake Marion

Santee NWR

Fort Watson

Lake Moultrie

Sandy Beach WMA

Swan Lake and Iris Gardens

 

While I don’t like working in gardens, I do enjoy visiting them, and photographing the flowers. That’s part of what brought me to Swan Lake and Iris Gardens in Sumter. The Iris bloom from around mid-to-late May until early June. Not a large window to partake of them, so timing is crucial. If you miss them, no worries, there are blooms to see throughout the year and there are the swans. If you’re really into irises, the annual Iris festival is every Memorial Day weekend. On my visit, I timed my trip to avoid the crowds.

I went mid-May and wasn’t sure the flowers would be blooming, but some were. It’d probably be better to go later in the month. It’d be nice if it said on the website when they were actively blooming, especially with spring coming early some years. Despite that, I had a good time. It wasn’t just the flowers I wanted to see, but the swans as well. This is the only public park in the entire United States with all eight swan species of the world represented.

And that’s not all to see in these 150 acres. In the playground is a Seagrave Firetruck for kids (little and grown up kids) to climb into. Sculptures dot the dot the grounds. Three of my favorite were the Untitled Boy Sculpture, the Recovery Sculpture, and the Flying Swans in Bland Garden across the street. Besides the Japanese Irises, there’s the Chocolate Garden, Butterfly Garden and a Braille Garden.

The Butterfly Garden is self-explanatory, the flowers attract butterflies, but the Chocolate and Braille Gardens are quite unique. In the former, the plants are brown like chocolate or smell like chocolate. I have to take their word for it because I didn’t smell that, but maybe because not many were blooming. The Braille Garden has signs in Braille and those who are visually impaired can smell and touch the plants. A really cool idea.

It’s interesting note: the garden is the result of a mistake. This was once a private fishing place owned by Hamilton Carr Bland, a local businessman. When the Japanese irises didn’t grow after being planted, Carr told the gardener to dig them up and toss the bulbs into the swamp. The next year, the iris burst into bloom.

Today one can wander around the two gardens, one on either side of West Liberty St. Both have irises and swans. The Heath Garden is the one with the lake and playground. Bland Garden features a boardwalk through cypress trees. An elevated crosswalk connects the two and there’s an elevator for those who can’t utilize the stairs.

The garden is open 7:30 to dusk every day except for during the Iris Festival. There’s a visitor center which is open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5.

 

How to Get There:

822 West Liberty Street/SC763  in Sumter

Links

http://www.sumtersc.gov/swan-lake-iris-gardens

What’s Close By:

Downtown Sumter with Opera House

Poinsett S.P.

Statesburg

Manchester State Forest

Greenwood State Park

The drive I took from Columbia to Lake Greenwood wove through the counties of Saluda and Greenwood, past peach trees and several interesting buildings. It was a great start of the day to visit Lake Greenwood State Park. The park sits partially on a peninsula on the Greenwood County side of Lake Greenwood. Besides the lake, there’s a campground, nature trail, and picnic area and more.

Even without walking the nature trail, I trekked far in this park. From the parking lot, to the John Drummond and Holly Self Drummon Environmental Education Conference Center (what a mouthful). This building houses the Civilian Conservation Corp Museum, the park being one of sixteen built by the CCC in SC. and down to lake, along it, and back again, meandering all the while.

Make sure to stop near the entrance and read the plaques about the unfinished wall. The men working here with the CCC were building the wall, when war was declared against the Germans and Japanese. They all enlisted to fight. The unfinished wall is a good tribute to those who created this park and their sacrifice in World War II

Below the Drummon Center is a good place to go fishing. I saw several people engaged in that activity as I walked around. I’m afraid I don’t have the patience. I live to move around. It’s also a nice place to gaze at the 114,000 acre lake.

There’s swimming here too, but it’s at your own risk as there’s no lifeguard. Watch the little ones and even the bigger ones if they don’t know how to swim. Or you can go boating since there’s a ramp to put your boat in the water.

The park, which is 914 acres, was built on land donated by Greenwood County in 1938. It’s well worth the visit. I think there’s an ironman competition held here every year. Check the website to find out the date.

How to Get There

Exit 74 from I-26 and head west on SC34. Turn right on SC702. The park is off that road.

Links:

https://southcarolinaparks.com/lake-greenwood

What’s Close By:

Lake Greenwood

Ninety Six NHS

Ninety Six (the town)