Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Glendale Shoals Preserve

The story of the small town of Glendale is similar to that of Greenville. The textile industry thrived in the Upstate, mill towns flourishing on the banks of rivers such as the Reedy and Lawson’s Fork Creek, until cheaper labor overseas, technology and automation, and international trade agreements led to its demise. Today, the former milltown boasts an Upstate hidden gem – Glendale Shoals Preserve.

Located just six miles east of Spartanburg, Glendale owes its presence to Dr. James Bivings who arrived in the area around 1830 and started a cotton manufacturing company. Bivingsville Mill was profitable until the late 1840s, when Bivings sold his share and left the area. After the partners declared bankruptcy the mill was auctioned off, and one of the businessmen involved in the purchase later bought out his partners and took over mill operations. In 1878 Dexter Converse (founder of D.R. Converse Co. as well as Converse College) renamed the town & mill Glendale, and the mill prospered until the collapse of the textile industry in SC.

The mill shut down in 1961, and then in 2004 there was a fire (see the Glendale website for photographs); today only ruins remain. The site has been incorporated into the Glendale Shoals Preserve, a 13-acre park that includes a pedestrian bridge, the dam, the shoals, a canoe/kayak launch and nature trails.

Glendale Shoals, as seen from north bank of Lawsons Fork Creek

Parking is located behind the Glendale Post Office, adjacent to the Goodall Environmental Studies Center. Part of Wofford College, the center includes a garden, vineyard, laboratory, classroom/conference center (the restored former mill office), and an amphitheater. When starting your explorations here don’t overlook the “Poet’s Garden” with its hidden view of the dam and ‘take a poem, leave a poem” mailbox.

The garden, vineyard, and former mill office

Glendale Shoals Trail on the north side of Lawsons Fork Creek is about ½ of a mile long. It leads through the mill ruins, past a Labyrinth (built by the Philosophy in Action Living-Learning Community at Wofford College), and through a segment of woods to the border with private property. At this end there is a small seating area, as well as a sandy bank on a section of river that is sometimes used as a swimming hole. There are no trespassing signs indicating the end of the preserve. A connector to the Glendale Greenway can be used for a loop hike that totals about 1 mile from the parking area.

The labyrinth, with a mill tower in the background

Once back at the parking area, head across the Glendale Bridge to reach the trails on the south bank of the creek. The Pratt truss-style bridge was originally built in 1928 to replace an old one-lane bridge, and featured a new pedestrian lane in addition to the two lanes for automobile traffic. In 1977 a 250-foot reinforced concrete bridge was built to replace the structure, rerouting traffic on a more direct route to the west.  The 1928 bridge was recently reopened to pedestrians in 2018 after a full restoration, and has a scenic view of the shoals and to the pond on the opposite side.

In additional to textiles, the iron industry also predominantly features in the history of Glendale. The iron ore along the banks of the creek, limestone bedrock and available timber were all contributing factors to the establishment of iron works on the banks of Lawsons Fork Creek, just west of the park. The iron works were served by one of the earliest roads in the Upstate, "Georgia Road,” an important route during the colonial and Revolutionary War eras. As the iron works were on the opposite shore from the town of Glendale, a bridge was necessary to allow workers to cross the creek, necessitating the 1800s precursor to Glendale Bridge.

Having crossed Lawsons Fork, there is a staircase descending to the creek and the trail that runs just under ½ mile along the south bank. After heavy rains portions of the trail may be inaccessible/dangerous, however the views of the shoals and dam waterfall are better from this side of the river. There are two points of access from Emma Cudd Road; keep in mind parking on this side is more of the gravel pull-off than parking lot variety.

During the summer the exposed rock is a beautiful place for a picnic, while the sandy area off Glendale Shoals Trail is great for building sand castles. (Side note: one thing to remember is that debris and trash frequently get deposited in these flood zones during high water events; glass and other hazards could pose a hazard to children at play.) Progress is being made on the invasive exotics along the creek, and the garden is well tended and interesting for kids to explore.  At just under an hour’s drive from Greenville, Glendale Shoals is well worth a stop while in the Spartanburg area.

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