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022619 55things Palmetto Trail

A portion of the Palmetto Trail winds through the eastern end of Orangeburg County.

Wildlife, colorful flora and vistas of the upper coastal plain. Indian burial grounds and rolling farmlands.

This is just a snippet of what the Palmetto Trail has to offer users in The T&D Region.

A portion of the planned 500-mile, cross-state hiking trail winds through the eastern end of Orangeburg County.

The Lake Marion Passage skirts along the high-water mark of the lake’s north side between Santee and Mill Creek County Park.

Between mile markers 5 and 6, a short side trip down Fort Watson Road leads to the site of ancient Santee Indian burial mounds (circa 3,500 years old).

During the American Revolution, the British built Fort Watson on the mounds to improve visibility and protect supply lines between Charleston and Camden.

Patriots under General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, and Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee captured the fort in 1781. The site is in the Santee National Wildlife Refuge.

Lots of dirt roads and time on rural highways make Santee Passage a pleasant trip for mountain bikers.

The passage winds through farmlands in eastern Orangeburg County, and the view is a tapestry of color and texture from cotton, wheat, soybeans and canola. Produce stands offer seasonal delights, including fresh-picked strawberries, blueberries and peaches.

The pot of gold on this passage is a shady portion across land owned by farmers Ira and Mona Avinger.

Visitors can take time to enjoy the pinewoods and whopping oak trees. The passage travels under Interstate 95 on a dirt road into Santee.

The Eutaw Springs Passage of the trail pushes through a varied terrain of grassy pastures and shady dirt roads, past the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Eutaw Springs and through downtown Eutawville.

Close to Eutawville, the passage crosses the old pastures of a former dairy farm.

A spur trail off Fredcon Road meanders through Santee-Cooper Wildlife Management Refuge and takes hikers and bicyclists through lowlands to the southern edges of Lake Marion. The northern trailhead is at the Eutawville Community Building.

Conceived in 1994, South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail is a bicycle and pedestrian project and will ultimately run from the mountains to the sea.

With over 350 miles completed, the trail path meanders beside lakes, across mountain ridges, through forests, into towns big and small, and across swamps.

It showcases conservation and preservation from mountains to sea, provides free public access to active, healthy outdoor recreation, and fosters tourism, business, and economic development.

Sites in The T&D Region that have Palmetto Trail access are:

  • Eutawville Community Center -- Porcher Avenue in Eutawville.
  • Eutaw Springs Battle Ground -- Take I-95 to Exit 98 and go east on SC 6 for 12.4 miles. Here, visitors can also visit the site of the last important Revolutionary War battle fought in the Carolinas, which took place on Sept. 8, 1781.
  • Santee Town Hall Complex -- Brooks Boulevard, Santee.
  • Vance Community Park -- Behind Vance Town Hall, SC Highway 310 (Camden Road), Vance. Parking is limited.

The scenic Palmetto Trail is one of 16 cross-state trails in the United States and is recognized regionally and nationally as a visitor-friendly attraction.

For more information, including maps and direction to trailheads, visit www.palmettoconservation.org.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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