Names, Signs & Connections

Message From The Director

What’s in a name? As you will find out in this month’s e-newsletter – plenty! From the legend of Table Rock and the great Cherokee Chief who ate his meals off the mountain while sitting on the stool, to the conflicting stories of the naming of Caesars Head. Some names are more obvious. Like the impact of the Huntington’s on Huntington Beach and the importance and connection with communities at places like Barnwell, Cheraw and Chester. Each park has a story to tell with its name that’s for sure. So, where did the name Devils Fork come from? How about Rose Hill and Redcliffe? What I find equally interesting is how our parks connect us to our state, our heritage and to each other.

Our parks indeed have some unique names. Part of that is because of our deep heritage and history. Some park names are more difficult to pronounce especially if you are not from the Palmetto State, as South Carolinians learn early to pronounce names like Edisto, Jocassee and Oconee.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been out of state or talking about parks to a new resident of South Carolina and been asked about “uh DEES toe” or how do you get to Devils Fork, the park on Lake “JOCK ah SEE”. It’s certainly understandable, but the more you think about it, the names of our parks connect us to our state.

When I first moved to Lake Wateree State Park as the first park superintendent, I was overwhelmed with the support of the community and immediately felt like I belonged, except I kept referring to the lake as Lake Wateree. I was quickly corrected that it was known as “the river”, and if you are from there it still is. From Lake Wateree we moved to Dreher Island State Park, again a great welcome, but a puzzled look when I would tell people that I worked at Dreher Island State Park. You mean Billy Dreher, so to this day I will call Dreher Island, Billy Dreher, with a bit of pride in my voice. Parks connect us to our heritage, to our communities and to each other.

Perhaps the coolest name given to a state park is the simplest – “The State Park”. With that name comes a 75-year tradition of fun, memories and a day of adventure. “Let’s go to the State Park this weekend!” With that statement, there’s a sense of anticipation and perhaps most important, ownership and a sense of pride. As in, “it’s my State Park, a place that has connected me to my heritage, to my state and to the people I care about.”

As you ride through the Town of Walhalla in the direction of Oconee State Park, the directional road sign simply says “State Park”. I’ve always thought it was one of the best signs ever, as it means our state park, and those simple words say it all.

Next time you are in one of your state parks, ask a ranger how that particular state park got its name. So, what are you waiting for? Just follow the signs to the State Park!

See you in the parks!