Monday, September 11, 2017

Poinsett Bridge

The Calahan Branch flows west, connecting to the outflow of the North Saluda Reservoir to form the headwaters of the North Saluda River. Together with the Table Rock Reservoir (created in 1930) and Lake Keowee, the North Saluda Reservoir supplies the Greenville Water System with water. Also known as the Poinsett Reservoir, it was created in 1961 along with a 17,000 acre protective buffer. A portion of this buffer is 120 acres surrounding Calahan Branch: Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve.

Located between Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve and Pleasant Ridge County Park, Poinsett Bridge is easily accessible from the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11 and about a 40 minute drive from Greenville.

The main attraction of the Heritage Preserve is a 14 foot Gothic arch stone bridge which is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge in the state of South Carolina. Originally a part of the state road which linked Greenville to Asheville, NC, the bridge spanned what has also been known as Little Gap Creek, and honors Joel R. Poinsett, a prominent Greenville resident of the time. Once ambassador to Mexico, Poinsett is recognized for introducing the poinsettia flower to the US, now a popular Christmas decoration throughout the country. The bridge itself was constructed in 1820, and historians believe it was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument in DC. If you look very closely at the keystone, you might be able to pick out the date, carved in stone.

Historically, travelers from as far away as Charleston utilized this bridge as a connection with the mountain communities, in addition to access to North Carolina and Tennessee. Nearby Travelers Rest gained a reputation as a stopover before continuing the difficult journey through the mountains.

North of the bridge, the old state road continues climbing into the Foothills, ascending into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following this road will take you on a strenuous hike, and portions connect to the neighboring scout camp, Old Indian. The bridge stopped carrying automobile traffic in the 1950s, and today most traffic keeps to N Hwy 25 that connects Travelers Rest with Interstate 26 and Asheville.

Although it may be tempting to explore the creek and small footpaths, please exercise caution. In places the creek runs across granite slides, and the rocks can be extremely slippery. In addition to venomous snakes (we saw multiple cottonmouths on our recent visit), the area is also known for its ticks, chiggers and biting flies. And finally, the Bridge and surrounding area is believed by some to be a prime candidate for haunting and paranormal activity.

Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve is owned by the State of South Carolina and managed by the Greenville County Recreation District and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Poinsett Bridge, Atlas Obscura

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