Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lee State Natural Area. Part VI. The Loop Road

Click here for the first post in this series.

Like most state parks, especially those that include wetlands, much of Lee State Natural Area is inaccessible. Inaccessible by car certainly. And much of it inaccessible even by foot. Just too difficult to get around.

Loop Road The original CCC designers and creators of this Park recognized the problem. And went to some effort to improve the situation by creating a loop road several miles long through some of the most interesting parts of the Park. Click on the Google Earth clip above for a better view. You can see the faint trace of the road just outside the yellow line.

scraped road Inclusion of this road in the Park’s design was no casual undertaking! It required large amounts of fill dirt. Hard packed and smoothed. Dirt that had to be dug out and hauled without sophisticated road-building equipment. Even today, as you see above, this Loop Road requires intensive maintenance. Done, I think, with the help of Lee County Highway folks and their equipment.

Scraper Fortunately, equipment today is more advanced than that available to the CCC in the 1930s.

A good portion of Loop Road is closed to vehicular traffic for most of the year. That part built through the wetlands near the Lynches River. But you can still hike it. I didn’t. But wish now that I had.

Driving up from the campground entrance both sides of the road are a botanist’s dream. The combination of sand hills and wetland plants makes for interesting scenery. Let alone the wildlife! Deer, birds, and I presume reptiles. Though I didn’t see any this trip.

horse center sign Soon on the right you’ll see the sign for the Equestrian Center. Complete with a large show ring, concession stand, and stables toward the rear.




This is a nice facility. Kept clean as a whistle. And, combined with the equestrian camping area, it makes Lee State Park the place place to visit with your horse.

Drive on up Loop Road to the “Road Closed” sign. On the left you’ll see the youth group camping area with its new high-tech privy. I forgot to get a photo of that technological marvel. But it’s state-of-the-art.

Park the car and either walk as far as is comfortable down Loop Road and back. Or, look around this group camping area. Another fine place to admire the work of the CCC crew who created this Park. Those fellows certainly earned their $30.00 per month! $22.00 of which they never saw since it was sent home directly to their families.

cabin Here’s another example of their buildings. An open-air cabin built on sloping ground.

cabin 2 Here’s another view of the same building. The wood, undoubtedly, has been replaced a number of times over the past seven decades. [But, it turns out, that's not true. Just my speculation. Actually, most of the wood is original. Incredible! Thanks Bryn, for the info.]

cabin 3 But the design and most of the stone/brick work remain the same. Listen closely enough and you can hear echoes of past lectures on wetlands given in this room. And ghost stories! Lee County must be full of folks who retain fond memories of their camping trips to this very spot.

pool This wading pool, fed by another of the Park’s artesian springs, is another CCC creation.

pool 2 The water from the spring is crystal-clear. Inviting on a hot day. Though I don’t know if it’s recommended for drinking. [Park Manager Bryn Harmer wrote to tell me DHEC regularly checks these Artesian springs and that they are indeed safe to drink from. Good water too! Thanks Bryn for the info.]

brown lake Before you leave this camping area, walk out on the path being built over to the lake. I think it’s called Brown Lake. If you don’t hike the wet portion of Loop Road, this will give you some idea of what you’re missing.

The minute I stepped on a fallen log that projected out into the water large turtles splashed off their sunny perches. If you look closely near the center of the photo above you can see one brave soul who threw caution to the wind and retained his perch. Before long, fish were jumping to the surface after insects foolhardy enough to land there. Quite a place.

petals So, be sure to take a drive along Loop Road when you visit Lee State Park. And allocate enough time to enjoy it. Lots too see.

Tomorrow I hope to visit Woods Bay Natural Area. A 1,600-acre property near here that includes one of the largest remaining Carolina bays. So stay tuned.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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