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Palmetto Trail improves Wateree Passage trailhead


Thanks to the Richland County Conservation Commission, it’s now much easier to hike the Palmetto Trail’s Wateree Pass statewide, according to a news release.

Funding provided by the commission helped establish a new parking area/trailhead where SC 601 meets Old Bluff Road near Eastover, Lower Richland County. Once there, visitors can travel just over 11 miles along the remnants of the old SC Railway until they reach Sumter County and the Manchester State Forest trailheads and from Poinsett State Park.

Through a partnership with WholeSpire and a grant from Prisma Health, additional wayfinding signage along Wateree Passage has been provided. This partnership supported a recent guided hike and medical screening at the new parking lot at the trailhead.

The pass is one of the most diverse sections of the Palmetto Trail, crossing a variety of landscapes, from a beautiful river marsh to the edge of the “high hills of the Santee”. The trail ascends Molly’s Bluff (elevation 260 feet), one of the highest elevations in Sumter County. The cliff offers excellent views across the Wateree Marsh to Richland County.

The new trailhead includes a bike repair station for riders who need to fix a flat, inflate a tire, or perform a number of other small repairs during their trip. This is especially important for those traveling from the popular Fort Jackson bike paths to the Wateree Pass.

Mary Roe, executive director of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, parent organization of the Palmetto Trail, praised the RCCC in the press release. “RCCC has always supported trails and seen the connection between trails and economic development, especially in more rural areas. We are very grateful for their continued interest in the Palmetto Trail sections that pass through Richland County. “

The location of the new trailhead near Eastover allowed it to serve as the base for a community hike last fall, bringing people to the trail who had never hiked it before. Roe adds, “We hope that by showing people how easy it is to find the trailhead and park there, we can encourage more people to get out and hike.”

The trailhead was constructed by the Palmetto Conservation Corps, a division of AmeriCorps within the Palmetto Conservation Foundation/Palmetto Trail umbrella. This group of young people live in neighborhoods in the Manchester State Forest and hike the Palmetto Trail from Awendaw in Charleston County to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Oconee County, often camping multiple nights at a time.

On the trail, they build new sections of trail, repair or rebuild bridges and boardwalks, and generally keep the Palmetto Trail in good condition. The Palmetto Conservation Corps is also available on a “paid service” basis to perform similar park and trail work for federal, state, or local entities.

Established by Richland County Council in 1998, the Richland County Conservation Commission is responsible for promoting the protection of the county’s natural, historic and cultural resources and promoting nature-based recreation and eco-heritage tourism.