Friday, August 17, 2012

Pride in South Carolina State Parks

I love South Carolina state parks. Matter of fact, I was born in South Carolina. Maybe I am slightly biased. Awhile back I met a lady who had just completed her dream of camping or visiting every South Carolina state park. I was envious. She was young too.

South Carolina state park  camping rates are some of the best deals around. Their state parks are surprisingly well managed. (I say surprisingly because much of the government often has a way of screwing things up royally.)

Many SC state parks have original stone structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the darkest days of the great depression. Young men were housed in barracks or tents, fed, paid and sent out to work on public lands. Part of their salary was sent home to their parents before they ever saw it.

Most all South Carolina state parks are open year round  due to lack of brutal winters. Sure it gets cold and can even freeze once in awhile, but not for long. Snow is so rare in South Carolina that generally when it does snow, schools and businesses close, so  it's a free holiday and most everyone stays  home to play in the snow. Let the state get a one inch layer and the whole neighborhood seems to sprout snow men even if it takes the entire front yard to amass enough snow to build one.

During the depression,  the CCC created a whopping 16 state parks in South Carolina that preserve some of the state’s most exquisite areas.

Though the work of the CCC was more than 70 years ago, their important legacy is still visible and many old structures have been restored for continued use. The park planners of the 1930s suffered from a unique idealistic vision, wanting to create opportunities for all people, rich or poor, to get closer to nature.

They believed that outdoor recreation could help cure many of society’s ills, and that nature could inspire, educate and even give meaning to life.

Nearly 80 years later, this is still oh so true. Turn off the TV, put away the electronic gadgetry, get off the couch and go see nature up close and personal.

Unfortunately some parks now charge an entrance fee, making it harder or impossible  for the poor to enjoy.  Not the idealistic vision the original park planners intended.

A museum dedicated to the legacy of the CCC is located at Lake Greenwood State Park in SC. Additionally, one of the finest examples of CCC craftsmanship in the state park system can be found at the newly restored Table Rock Lodge at Table Rock State Park.  The entrance is located on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (highway 11). If you haven't driven that scenic route from end to end, then you are just plainly missing out on life.

When I was growing up, the Table Rock Lodge was a lovely southern style restaurant. We thought it an exquisite treat to go dine there.  Now it is a hall that is rented out for weddings and other events.

Recently when my company departed from Lake Hartwell in Georgia to head up I-85 towards Charlotte, North Carolina and beyond,  I suggested they hop on Highway 11 on the southern end and traverse the entire Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, which ultimately reconnects to I-85 near the North Carolina border.

It's not a route for speed demons, but it's not heavily traveled either, and the scenery is just incredibly lush.  Special laws prevent commercial enterprises from junking up the highway with large signage so that nature is preserved.

When the highway was being built, my father loaded us up in the van to go see it. Back then, nobody worked on Sundays except the preachers and a token few restaurant workers. When we got to the proposed highway, they had begun clearing the trail to make a dirt foundation for the future highway. Despite the "Under Construction" and "Do Not Enter" signs, my father found a way to drive around the barricades, taking us sightseeing down the bumpy dirt road in a cloud of dust. My father was a  law abiding man, but I do find it curious indeed that he flaunted the law and took us bouncing the old Indian trail.

That was then, this is now.

That night, my friend called to say the route was indeed awesome, that it put him in a proper frame of mind, just soaking up the beauty before being forced back to the interstate hustle of the remainder of his trip.

Another nice touch about South Carolina state parks and campgrounds is that they are dog friendly.  Be sure to bring your leash and poop baggies.

This winter there is a snowbird's special with six of the coastal state park campgrounds offering a 50% discount on 30 day camping from November 25 2012 through February 28, 2013. Click here for complete details. 

Generally gas in South Carolina is cheaper than anywhere else in the country.

For current gas prices, click here:

You can use GasBuddy.Com to plan your trip and gas purchases in advance to make sure you don't get sticker shock at the pumps.


  1. SC sounds like a good place to consider for the winter months. It is a beautiful state.

  2. Yes, a very beautiful ride and some great scenery along the way. Miss it tremendously right now.

    The Troutman (Soon I hope)


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