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.
What’s Close By:
Sandy Beach WMA