Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Calhoun Falls State Park, S.C. Part V. Something for Everyone to Do!

Click here for the first post in this series.

Upll Through Site Having a great time here at Calhoun Falls State Natural Area. Today, Tuesday, it was sunny. So I decided to drive around to take pictures of some of the Park’s facilities. The photo above is of one of the many wide, easily accessible, pull-through sites in Campground Loop # 2. I won’t waste your bandwidth with photos of them all. Just too many. The campsites at this Park have to be the best I’ve seen to date. Especially good for folks with wheelchairs, or even for mobile ElderCampers, like me.

According to folks in the main Office, this Park was planned and laid out in the 1990s. I think first by the Corps of Engineers. Not sure about that. But it makes sense. Since the Corps has control of the Lake and its surrounding real estate. Permits required for most everything done within a few hundred feet of the shoreline. This later date of origin accounts for many of the Park’s advantages. Well, that and strict attention to maintenance over the years.

Ant Hill Speaking of maintenance and upkeep, here’s an example. This part of South Carolina is Fire Ant Country. It hosts more fire ants than even my Midlands yard. Which all along I’d thought must be fire ant headquarters for the State.

You’ll see examples of fire ant industry along every road in the region. Including the road leading into the Park where this photo was taken. I even saw a large mound on the shore of an island in Lake Russell. Now, how in the world did those ants manage to get there? Swim? Burrow? Hitch-hike?

I mention this because somehow the maintenance folks here at Calhoun Falls have managed to banish fire ants from all public use areas in the Park. I didn’t see a single mound. How in the world did they do it? Wish they’d share their secret so I could use it at home. It must be a constant battle for them.

Playground 1 Calhoun Falls State Park has much more to offer than its campsites and beautiful lake views. The folks who planned this Park have included facilities for many other activities. Facilities designed, apparently, with every age group in mind.

Playground 2 Take, for example, the playground areas. There are several throughout the Park. They’re somewhat newer versions of the one we saw at Santee State Park, week before last. All are well constructed and well maintained. Even the most cautious parents and grandparents needn’t worry about their little ones climbing around on this equipment.

We never had anything like this OverHome! Gone, I guess, are the days of discarded rubber tires suspended from horizontal tree branches by ropes of dubious reliability.

Horseshoes Kids too old for the playground? Well, what about a game of horseshoes? I saw several pitches laid out around the Park. And look here. Horseshoes provided! That haven’t walked away. Nice to see. I can think of some places where they wouldn’t last long …

Tennis No strong horseshoe tradition in your family? Then, how about tennis or basketball. Nicely maintained courts for both.

pingpong There’s even a sheltered ping-pong table, with paddles and balls, just down the hill from the tennis courts. It’s remarkable that the equipment doesn’t disappear.

borrowgames If all else fails. If your kids are confirmed, unrepentant couch potatoes. Or, if the weather really won’t permit playing games outside, drop by the Park Office to borrow one of their many indoor games. And, have a look around the store while you’re there. You may find something you simply can’t leave without. This is an idea that’s caught on at several of the State Parks. Games, and also short-term lending libraries. Great!

trail bridge But, of course, most of us don’t go to our State Parks to stay inside for the whole visit. Not to worry. There’s plenty to do outside. The wooden bridge above is on one of the Park’s nature trails.

Digital image  Here’s another view of a Park hiking trail. This one taken from the water. Click on the photo to see the steps built in at a point of steeper descent. Nice for ElderHikers!

shelter 1 That’s not all. This Park maintains a surprising number of picnic and meeting shelters. All that I saw were in ship-shape, ready to host a family reunion, church picnic, or just a family gathering.

The one above is nicely situated with a lake view. And, like the rest of the Park’s facilities, it really is wheelchair accessible. If memory serves, these shelters can be reserved for $50 per day. And that fee includes access to all of the other Park resources while here. A real deal. No wonder so many families have their reunions here each year.

Now, the real focus of activities here at Calhoun Falls State Park is Lake Russell. Not only for sightseeing, as I’ve mentioned above. But for fishing, boating, and swimming. Most folks who visit the Park come for a lake-related activity.

swim area This is a photo of the main swimming area. Look at that sand! And at the barrier out a ways that marks the end of the safe swimming area.

swim building The photo of the swimming area was taken from the rear of this building. There are no life guards. But there are places to change and shower. It’s remarkable that these facilities, like the rest of those in the Park, can be used for only the price of admission to the Park.

marina Near the main office, the Park maintains a full-service marina. Folks store boats that are up to 25 feet in length here for only about $80 per month. Larger boats are charged an additional fee that depends on just how long they are. I’m not a big boat guy, but the facilities looked nice to me.

fish pier Fishing too, as you might imagine, is popular here. In fact, that photo of the marina was taken from the fishing pier you see above.

fishing equipment Now, I’ve learned to be skeptical of Park personnel reports of just how good the fishing is near their Park. So I won’t repeat their description here. But the Park does loan fishing rods, reels, and everything needed to try your luck. For free! Oh, and life jackets as well. This, I think, is done in cooperation with other organizations. But I didn’t get the details.

On Monday I noticed a crew digging out behind the office. Apparently running water or sewer lines. I asked and discovered that they were burying a septic tank and other infrastructure for a state-of-the-art fish cleaning station! It should be a showpiece when done. A long sink, grinders, water sluices. So somebody must be pulling fish from this lake!

boat ramp Finally, the Park maintains several boat ramps. Here’s one from which I’ll launch the Expedition kayak tomorrow. Well designed, clean, with plenty of parking. Though it gets busy here on the weekends, so come early.

That’s all we have time for today. Stay tuned, though. Tomorrow looks like a good kayaking day. More to come.

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