Looking Back, Moving Forward

Message From The Director

It always amazes me when I visit a place that brings back special memories. It’s like a time machine transporting you back to a singular place and period of your life that brings a smile across your face.  Recently, this place was the historic CCC spillway that holds back the waters of Lake Crawford at Kings Mountain State Park.  Suddenly, it was the summer of 1982 and one of this young ranger’s daily assignments was to pick up any trash below the spillway.  As I walked below the spillway for the first time, I was amazed at its beauty.  The sounds reminded me of being beneath a waterfall, but the orderly pattern of falling water allowed for a view of the stacked stones, a classic technique of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Harmonizing with the natural environment, the CCC were not building just a dam, but rather a monument to conservation and a memory maker. As I stand beneath the historic spillway some 36 years later, I’m instantly reminded of my first days with South Carolina State Parks. Good times.

This summer will be my last official summer with the State Park Service. I am retiring and closing this chapter of my life. Before I begin my next chapter, we thought it would be fun to make a list of 100 things to see and do in South Carolina State Parks. My favorite things may be different from the average park visitor, but we thought this list would be a great way to share my unique perspective and hopefully encourage you to experience something new at a park near you! Over the next few months, I will be sharing my favorite things to see and do, and some of the adventures I’ve had along the way in my career.

So, let’s get started with the first 30!  The Lake Crawford spillway was the first place in parks that was a wow for me. It was the start of my career and I never visit Kings Mountain without a trip to the spillway. Come to think of it, my list will be filled with spots that are not only worth seeing but special because of a memory or time in my life.

I left Kings Mountain and became the first park superintendent of Lake Wateree, where I remember my first sunrise fishing tournament “blast off” from the banks overlooking the dock.  If you have never witnessed a blast off at sunrise, add this to the list. 

Off to Dreher Island where my love for sunrises and sunsets on the lake began. Words just don’t do it justice, it’s worth the trip. Sunsets from Shelter 4 at Dreher Island are hard to beat: the solitude, the lake- you get the picture.  As you watch this list grow over the next few months, you’ll notice that many places on my list are enhanced by sunrises and sunsets.

Santee was my next park, so you’re probably thinking there is a sunrise or sunset involved. Well, I must admit early morning on the fishing pier watching the sunrise is hard to beat, but my favorite spot at Santee is on the Limestone trail, where the bridge crosses the pond. A place of solitude, routinely interrupted by shore birds and the occasional alligator.  I would often seek out this spot after a long day.

Your parks are filled with special spots. I hope you get a chance to experience all 100 on my list, or better yet come up with your own! Here are 26 more to round out my first 30:

96. Little Pee Dee in spring- the dogwoods give the appearance of a snow covered forest dotted with brilliant yellow jessamine everywhere.

95. A sunset and campfire on the lake behind the 300 section of lodge rooms at Hickory Knob.

94. Lee’s artesian well (fountain).

93. Keowee-Toxaway’s Natural Bridge trail.

92. Croft’s 65-foot long Advance America expansion bridge over Fairforest Creek.

91. Colleton’s river front area, overlooking the Edisto River.

90. The riverfront at Givhans Ferry, with views of historic Riverfront Hall and the Edisto River.

89. Oconee Station’s view of the Station House and Richards House.

88. Sunrises and sunsets at Hamilton Branch, with so many peninsulas you can take in both with stunning views!

87. Front porch sitting at a camper cabin overlooking the lake at Lake Hartwell.

86. Paddling to the headwaters of Lake Juniper into the cypress swamp at Cheraw.

85. Shelter 2 at Calhoun Falls has some great sunsets and a lake view with no development. It’s a pretty rare sight.

84. H. Cooper Black’s sunrises and sunsets at Goose Pond are pretty outstanding. If you can be on horseback or walking with your dog, they are over the top!

83. Barnwell’s historic CCC spillway- no words needed.

82. Lake Warren sunsets are amazing. I know I’m big on these, but whether from the park’s gazebo or Hampton Hall, the sunsets at Lake Warren never disappoint.

81. Baker Creek sunsets from the pavilion in the summer.

80. The trail through the breastworks, looking down to the Salkehatchie at Rivers Bridge.

79. Woods Bay’s boardwalk through the swamp (while an alligator watches).

78. Aiken’s kayak trail on the Edisto River.

77. Sesquicentennial’s historic CCC spillway.

76. Horseshoe Falls at Musgrove Mill.

75. The view of the CCC boathouse at Chester, especially in the fall.

74. The view from a canoe at Pine Tree Creek at Goodale.

73. Rose Hill’s Gist Mansion

72. Colonial Dorchester’s old brick bell tower of St. George’s Anglican Church.

71. Redcliffe’s front porch, more than the view.

So, that’s the first thirty things I think top the list of things to see and do in South Carolina State Parks. This is going to be fun! I wonder if there’s time to visit them all before I leave? Probably not, but the good news is they are etched in my memory. As I look back on some great memories, it reminds me to keep moving forward, making new memories and creating new spots for future generations to see and experience.

There is a lot going on in your state parks! Soon we will open a new campground at Huntington Beach, open 10 new camper cabins at Dreher Island, work is currently underway on a new campground at Lake Wateree, a new kayak ramp and parking at Landsford Canal, the Nature Center at Huntington Beach and as always,  more programs, activities and festivals. Lets me know your 100 things to see and do, I can’t wait to see them!

See you in the parks!