Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cherokee Interpretive Center: Keowee-Toxaway State Park, SC

Click here for the first post in this series.

After a quiet lunch in the Aliner I drove late Tuesday afternoon to the other side of the Park. Across Highway Eleven. To visit the Cherokee Interpretive Center, and to walk the associated trail. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss. This side of the Park too has been meticulously maintained. Again, I didn’t find a single scrap of paper or trash. Though some of the facilities and displays are long overdue for replacement. Undoubtedly the victims of budget cuts. But, as you can see in the photo of the split rail fence and greenery below, the overall effect is pleasing.

[Click each photo for larger view]

Those split rail fences are beautiful, but expensive to build and to replace. And the trail through the interpretive center is lined with them.

Note too the camellia bush to the left of the railroad ties. It’s one of several mature specimens in this section of the Park. The blossoms are beautiful.

The Interpretive Museum building is open only by appointment now. So I didn’t get to look inside. It used to house the Park’s main offices, as well as displays of Cherokee artifacts. Still, there’s plenty to see along the trail.

Walk down the path pictured above, and turn to the right at the sign. Four kiosks positioned here and there along the trail offer text, illustrations, and photos describing some aspect of Cherokee life. The trail leads straight through each of the kiosks, right past the large display windows. So visitors are sure not to miss a thing. The displays originally included artifacts as well. But, according to a sign pasted to a window, many of them have been removed for safekeeping.

The first kiosk is devoted to Cherokee hunting, styles of dress, shelters, and usage of indigenous plants. The removed artifacts have been replaced with photographs. The combination of photographs, drawings, and text conveys a lot of information about Cherokee life in a most pleasant natural setting.

The second kiosk offers a look at relations between the Cherokee and Europeans as they arrived in the region: trade, diplomatic relations, treaties, and finally warfare. All open to interpretation, of course. But well done. With the information presented effectively for visitors of all ages. No easy feat!

While walking back up the trail to the third kiosk, pictured above, be sure to take enough time to appreciate the variety of surrounding shrubs and trees. They alone are worth the effort. Kiosk number three describes the first Cherokee War. With a focus on Fort Prince George.

The Fort was situated on what then was the Keowee River, around six miles from the Park. According to the supporting material, anthropologists made a frantic effort to excavate as much of the Fort’s site as possible before it was covered by the water that turned the Keowee River into Lake Keowee. The model pictured above gives visitors a good idea of just how the Fort was constructed.

The fourth and final kiosk in the series provides information about Cherokee participation in the American Revolution, and the subsequent fate of the Tribe, up to the 1970s. Including the “Indian removal” campaigns of 1838 and 1839, and the “Trail of Tears.” This kiosk too is well done, leaving visitors with something to think about as they climb the path to the trail exit.

There are several attractive picnic shelters on this side of the park, just down the hill from the museum building. All an easy walk from the parking area.

They are clean and well maintained. One even boasts an impressive stone fireplace. These shelters can be reserved in advance, or occupied on an as-available basis. What a great place for a family picnic before or after walking the Cherokee Interpretive Trail!

It’s possible that the Park Service has plans to integrate much of this interesting exhibit into the Jocassee Gorges Project display under construction in the main park office on the other side of Highway Eleven. I hope, though, they find the additional funds necessary to preserve this remarkable exhibit. It certainly seems worth maintaining.

Those of you interested in RV travel and interesting photographs should have a look at the Old Fat Man Adventures blog. You can find it at:

Nearly every day, Barney, the old fat man, publishes a post about his life full-timing in an RV in Texas. It's great entertainment, and you're sure to learn something along the way! I certainly have.

Click here for the next post in this series.


  1. You should make a return trip to Keowee SP. They have brand new exhibits!

  2. Yes, the new exhibit hall must be ready by now. Hope to see it in the near future.