Hike 15
Congaree Bluffs & Congaree National Park Hike 15 -- March 15, 2010
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I was excited about this hike -- going some where brand new. I had stumbled across a write up about the
Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve while looking for more maps on the Congaree National Park. The thing that
immediately caught my eye was the phrase, "Look out over the Congaree National Park from an observation
deck over 150 feet above the Congaree River."

I was hooked.

I left the hotel (my favorite Holiday Inn Express at Exit 80 on I-20 east of Columbia, SC) and headed on back
roads towards Fort Motte, SC. I had my final destination, Turkey Track Lane and County Road 25, keyed into
my navigation system in my Suburban and was hoping that the point I picked off the map was "close enough"
to get me to the Preserve.

I sped past Fort Jackson property on my right as I headed down "Screaming Eagle Road" towards US 601
(McCords Ferry Road). Once there, I headed due south towards St. Matthews, SC. We used to come this same
way all those years ago when we came from Marietta and headed to Sumter, SC -- my home town -- to see my
mother and family.

Anyway, the road here is like one long roller coaster ride -- up and down, up and down. This area geologically is
fascinating. At one time, all this area was under water -- the Atlantic Ocean came this far up into SC. The "hills"
are remnants of the ancient sea bottom -- and sand dunes. In fact, all this area from around Cheraw, SC down
past Columbia and Aiken SC, is know as the "Sandhill Section" of SC. You can find sharks' teeth buried in the
sand here. This area is also on the edge of the Fall Line -- the geographical barrier, change in land formation
that ended all boat navigation of rivers "up stream".

Soon I arrived at the Bates Bridge that crosses over the Congaree River. I stopped for a short visit and saw
quickly that the river was way up and flooding a bit over it's normal channel. Back in the car, I soon left US 601
and was working my way across rural SC towards the tiny community called Fort Motte. This place goes all the
way back to Revolutionary War times as it was at first a British stronghold here (protecting the road/paths to
upland SC) and was taken by an attack from the Americans led by General Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox").

Not too far from town, I found my destination and turned off the paved road onto a dirt road cut through the
pine forest. Within minutes, I was at the Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve site.  I parked my car
and headed towards the gate.

All the land around me was either burnt and/or plowed up. I learned later that the Preserve is taking out the
Slash Pine trees and replanting Loblolly Pine for better fire control. Soon, I could see the actual bluffs, the tree
line on the edge and then could see way out beyond that through the trees.