Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Musgrove Mill and Horseshoe Falls

Just west of the Enoree Ranger District of Sumter National Forest is a small state-owned tract of land that was the site of an important clash during the American Revolution. The Battle of Musgrove Mill was fought in August of 1780 when a group of 200 Patriot militiamen attacked a Loyalist camp on the Enoree River. The Loyalists numbered closer to 500, but were forced to retreat because of the Patriot’s superior ridge position. Leading up to the American victory at Kings Mountain, the battle was a turning point in the war after the defeat three days before at the Battle of Camden.

The Musgrove Mill battle site was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and today includes a visitor center with interpretive exhibits that tell the story of the battle and how it fit into the big picture of South Carolina's pivotal role in the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Located within the almost 400-acres is also a memorial to the legendary Mary Musgrove, 2.5 miles of interpretive trails, a picnic area, a fishing pond and a canoe launch.

With the approach of the Fourth of July a visit to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site is especially appropriate, however the boys' favorite summer destination in the park is Horseshoe Falls, the small waterfall on Cedar Shoals Creek. It’s a short 0.1 mile hike on a paved trail to the falls from the parking lot off of Horseshoe Falls Road (marked State Rd S-42-10 on maps). This is not a designated swimming area and there is no lifeguard on duty, but the shallow pool beneath the falls and the sandy creek are an ideal spot to cool down on a summer scorcher.

Edward Musgrove (whose colonial home still stands as today’s visitor center) allowed British Loyalists to use his property as a hospital during the war. Local legend has it that in spite of this allegiance, Musgrove’s daughter Mary helped an injured Patriot soldier (nicknamed “Horseshoe” because of his livelihood as a blacksmith) hide in a small cave near the falls, where he gathered intelligence to aid the Patriots while he healed. On our visit the cave to the left of the falls was empty, save for a snake living in the rocks above.

The rocks at the base of the falls and in the creek at the top of the falls are algae and moss covered, making them quite slippery and hazardous. Whether searching for that perfect photograph or taking a dip, please be very careful; a slip might have dangerous consequences. We exercised caution as we would with any waterfall, even though this one is only 10 feet tall.

On our recent visit quite a few other families were enjoying the waterfall, so this might not be the hike for you if you’re seeking midday solitude. However if what you are looking for is a natural setting for some summer splashing and exploration without the entry fee of a beach or waterpark, this might be just the spot!

So, an educational hike through the Piedmont forest learning about a pivotal war of the American Revolution, followed by lunch in the shade of a giant oak overlooking the pond, topped off by a dip in the creek by the waterfall – just the recipe for an Upstate day in July!

Showing off tadpoles and a waterbug

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