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
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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

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

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/

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

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.

aiken-aiken-sp-11-on-boardwalk-trail

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.

aiken-aiken-sp-04-main-pond

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

Harbison State Forest

I’d heard plenty about Harbison State Forest, but never visited until a national hike day, or maybe it was visit a park day. Whatever day it was, I went. Harbison Forest is located in Columbia along the Broad River. It’s not difficult to find being just east of Broad River Road. I pulled in the parking lot, nice and shady, paid my five dollars and studied the trail options.

richland-harbison-sf-05-firebreak-trail-creek

In this 2,177 acre park there are plenty of trails to choose, twenty miles worth! Choose from the easy Discovery trail, 0.5 miles, to the six mile, difficult Lost Creek trail. The 4.4 mile, moderate Firebreak trail which interconnects to other trails. Or you can customize your trip if you wish, like I did. I can’t even tell you which ones I used. 

richland-harbison-sf-07-firebreak-trail-flower

The trails are for use for hikers and off road bicycling except for two which are for hiking only. Listen out for the call from a rider to announce themselves. There’s a canoe ramp that provides access for kayaks and canoes.

Harbison State Forest is one of the largest urban green spaces located within a city limits in the eastern part of the U.S. It’s named after Samuel P. Harbison who is/was from Pennsylvania. He provided much of the funds needed for the land to be purchased. Thank you, Mr. Harbison.

How to get there:

Take I-20 to exit #65 and go northwest on US #176 (Broad River Road) 5.9 kilometers (3.7 miles). The forest will be on the right side of the road.

Links:

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

What’s Close by:

River Front Park and Historic Columbia Canal

Riverbanks Zoo

Lake Murray

Poinsett State Park

Sumter - Poinsett SP - 20 lake

I didn’t expect the terrain to be so hilly here. Driving up to an overlook (yes, this park has an overlook), you can see for miles. From there I made my way to the visitor center. There’s a trail that connects the two, but I was wanting to take another trail and see the lake. I had a good chat with the ranger who was taking a break from fixing some steps. I have to say, rangers are jacks of all trades. I see them mowing, fixing things, and leading tours. They are a font of knowledge when it comes to the flora and fauna and everything else in the park and they always friendly.

He told me about the meeting hall which had been built by the CCC in the 1930’s. I picked up quite a few brochures on Sumter county here, which was nice as I got information on other sites to see in Sumter.

Sumter - Poinsett SP - 09 lakeside view of sluice

Not far from the meeting room is a pretty spillway also by the CC. It flows under a bridge and trickles down a small waterfall into a stream. It hardly looks man made at all.

Several trails wind through these high hills of Santee. One goes around the ten acre lake. There’s the Coquina Trail, Laurel Group Trail, Hill Top Trail, and the Scout Trail. I did the Coquina trail and thus walked a bit on the Palmetto trail which passes through.

If you don’t walk the trails, one can rent a canoe or a kayak.

How to get there:

From US76 / US378, take the 261 toward Wedgefield. There should be a sign to the park. The park will be on the right.

Links:

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

What’s close by:

Manchester State Forest

Palmetto Trail

City of Sumter with Swan Lake and Historic Downtown

Stateburg

Cheraw State Park

Chesterfield - Cheraw SP - 14 bridge over Lake Juniper Dam

Cheraw State Park is located just outside of the town of Cheraw off US52. However way you get there, it’s a pleasant drive. I took US1 through McBee. I wanted to see the peach tree blossoms. I was either too late or too early, but no matter I got to visit other sites and had just a good a time on my trip to the park as I did in the park.
The park is know more the large championship, 18-hole golf course. While not a golfer myself, I admired the greens and trees. You have to pass the course to get to the Lake Juniper, a 300 acre lake created by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) back in the 1930’s. They built a number of structures in the park as well, but not the boardwalk that curves around a section of the lake. From it you can explore the cypress wetlands that line the lake. Or explore it by renting a kayak or canoe. Being along, I opted not to go out on the lake. I’m not much of a water person anyway, preferring to look at it instead of being on it. or via a boardwalk that runs along the lake.
I saw a nice camping area on my walk. There are cabins to rent as well. Visit the web site for more information on that. Other activities include fishing, swimming, and biking, hiking, and horse riding on their extensive trail system. One bike trail is nine miles long.
The walking trails include the Turkey Oak Trail, a 4.5-mile loops, with a shorter 1.9 mile loop, and the Boardwalk Trail. Besides running along the lake it crosses the dam spillway. Walk with care and you can spot turtles sunning themselves.

How to Get There:
As said there are several ways to get there. One can use US1 from Columbia. If you are traveling via I95, take exit 164 and take US52 toward Darlington and on toward Cheraw.

Links:
http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/cheraw/introduction.aspx

What’s Close by:
Sand Hills State Forest is right next to the park as is H. Cooper Black Jr. Recreation Area, a place more equestrians.
Carolina Sandhills NWR. This is a must see.