Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Artesian springs in Lee State Park

We are slowly crossing off State Parks on our Ultimate Outsider list, the ultimate goal to visit all 47 state parks in South Carolina, but with the intent to take our time and enjoy each park. Last month we spent a couple of nights camping at Huntington Beach SP, but needed a stop on the way there to help break up the drive. As it turns out, Lee State Park is located not too far past Columbia, just before Florence, SC – only 2.5 hours from Greenville.

Artisan well at Lee State Park

Lee State Park is one of several Civilian Conservation Corps parks in the state, built in 1935 to provide recreational opportunities for the residents of Lee County on the shores of the Lynches River. Named for Thomas Lynch, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence, the headwaters of Lynches are in North Carolina near Waxhaw. From Lee SP it flows southeast into the Pee Dee, which in turns empties into the Waccamaw River just west of Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park – it would have been perfect if we could have just floated from Lee the rest of the way to the Atlantic instead of having to finish the drive.

While the favorite thing to do in Lee State park may be kayaking and canoeing through the park’s hardwood forest floodplain, we were drawn to the ponds created by the artesian wells near the Visitor Center. The wells tap into confined aquifers, the pressure of the water seeping in pumping water out of the well. The CCC drilled seven wells at Lee in the 1930s of which five are still operational.

Definitely walk down the 0.2 mile boardwalk and observe the aquatic wildlife that thrives in the surrounding waters. We saw a snake, frogs, and an assortment of birds. 144 species of birds have been documented in the Park.

For a longer hike, head out on the 5 mile Loop Road. Open to all traffic, the loop takes you around to the equestrian campground, the equestrian trails on the north end, and then back along the Lynches River. There are additional artisan wells along the way. A group area that is located adjacent to the show ring and stables is available for horse clubs and other equestrian groups to rent. Lynches is designated a State Scenic River, and unique wildlife seen in the bottomland forests include the endangered wood stork, marsh rabbits, and fox squirrels.

If you bring a picnic, head to one of the two historic CCC shelters. Be sure to stop in at the Visitor Center and stamp your Park passport, but while there pick up some of the excellent brochures featuring everything from the flora and fauna of the park, a scavenger hunt (which the boys enjoyed), to a CCC history brochure. Quite a few of the State Parks we visit have the CCC in their history, but fewer and fewer have surviving structures with the classic Conservation Corps architecture.

CCC constructed bridge at Lee State Park

Lee also offers a variety of educational programs; for more on the hikes and crafts (such as pine needle basket workshops), check the Park website.

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