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Visiting South Carolina on Your Next Road Trip
South Carolina treats tourists to gentle Blue Ridge foothills, tumbling waterfalls, big blue lakes, sandy Atlantic beaches – and everything in between.
In the "Palmetto State’s" northern upcountry, a 40-mile common border with Georgia follows the graceful curves of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River. With a spring-fed source that gradually burgeons in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains, this pulsating river’s elevation drops almost one-half mile as it flows 50 miles downstream to its conclusion at Lake Tugaloo. Made equally famous and infamous by the movie "Deliverance," the rushing Chattooga River is a favorite spot for whitewater kayakers, rafters and canoeists. Visiting hikers won’t feel left out, when they consider the land-based challenges on Chattooga’s forest trails and rugged shores.
Adjacent to the mighty Chattooga River in the northwestern upcountry is Sumter National Forest. This former Cherokee and Piedmont tribal range is currently headquartered in Mountain Rest. Because Sumter occupies three distinctive ranger districts, this national forest is best loved for its diversity of recreational options. In addition to the Chattooga’s dazzling whitewater floats and kayaking adventures, forest visitors enjoy hiking or biking on the Foothills National Recreation Trail and gazing at Whitewater Falls, the highest cascades east of the Mississippi. An impressive series of rivers, lakes and creeks yield catches like rainbow trout, striped bass and catfish. And Sumter’s fine recreation areas have swimming holes, basic boating facilities and equestrian activities.
Caesar’s Head State Natural Area, a favored center for nature photographers, is also in the upcountry near Cleveland. As part of the mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Caesar’s Head boasts an elevation of more than 3,000 feet, which gives this park a panoramic perspective on regional attractions like Table Rock, Pinnacle Mountain and Raven Cliff Falls. Anglers snag spotted trout in Caesar’s creeks and brooks. Another noteworthy perk is the perpetually blooming wildflowers within.
Visitors to Sumter National Forest enjoy hiking or biking on the Foothills National Recreation Trail and gazing at Whitewater Falls.
In South Carolina’s north central region, Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge is a birders’ and photographers’ paradise based in the town of McBee. This refuge is tops for leisurely hiking and wildlife observation. Southern bald eagles, Canadian geese and endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers share the skies and trees at Carolina Sandhills. Spotting them is a cinch, thanks to numerous observation platforms, towers, nature trails, cycling roads and the nine-mile, scenic automobile route at this refuge. Besides feathered species, animals like beavers, river otters, fox squirrels and tiger salamanders make Carolina Sandhills their home. Photographers can capture plenty of wildlife wonders on film.
What do you get when you combine three islands connected to the mainland via causeway and bridges? Dreher Island, of course, and another north central attraction in the Dreher Island State Recreation Area and its 348 acres and 12 miles of undeveloped shoreline. Boating on the 5,000-acre Lake Murray reservoir is the main event at Dreher Island. Three boat ramps were installed to insure easy access to the lake. Once there, anglers reel in stripers, bream and yellow perch. Of course, if all this water fun wears you down, you can enjoy a picnic, followed by an easy stroll on the Billy Dreher Nature Trail.
In southern thoroughbred country at Windsor, Aiken State Natural Area offers both water- and land-based fun. The South Edisto River and four spring-fed lakes are a pleasing complement to the pine and hardwood forests and swamplands at Aiken. Visitors spend time canoeing or fishing on the South Edisto, chasing catfish and bass in Aiken’s lakes and hiking through the forest on the Jungle Nature Trail.
Another bright spot in the southern part of the Palmetto State is Santee National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Marion in Summerton. Santee’s 15,000-acre countryside shifts from hardwood and pine forests to marshes, abandoned fields, ponds and wide-open waters. The refuge protects such endangered bird species as peregrine falcons and bald eagles, as well as migrating mallards and Canada geese. Deer, red-shouldered hawks and bobcats find a home in Santee’s forests and its marshes shelter American alligators. The refuge’s recreational options include trails for hikes and automobile explorations, wildlife watching, fishing, boating and hunting.
In the southern low country on the sparkling Atlantic coastline, Edisto Beach State Park is located on secluded Edisto Island. Once inhabited by American Indians, this park was established in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. Edisto’s beaches are graced with an abundance of collectible seashells and the island is shaded by some of South Carolina’s largest palmetto trees. Visitors can explore a salt marsh environment and a seaside oak forest with a winding nature trail. Anglers can cast a line from sandy beaches or try their luck at fishing the salt marsh for whiting or flounder. A boat ramp and dock provide easy access to Big Bay Creek on the western side of the park. Biking and saltwater swimming are other popular island pursuits.
You won’t want to miss the famous Grand Strand and Myrtle Beach area. With shimmering beaches, spectacular golf courses and grand architecture, this area has much to offer RVers. Stretching for more than 60 miles along the Atlantic Coast, the area is comprised of several communities (Myrtle Beach is considered the hub of the Grand Strand), including Ocean Drive, North Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove, Atlantic Beach, Surfside, Litchfield and Pawleys Island.
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