A [Scenic] River Runs Through It
Pee Dee Country’s beautiful coastal plain rivers are integral to both its history and allure as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and Lynches River County Park is a great place for visitors to get their toes wet exploring all this region has to offer.
by David Lucas
Lynches River County Park sits almost exactly in the middle of the 111-mile section of the Lynches River that is designated a "State Scenic River," beginning where it crosses Highway 15 in Lee County and ending all the way down at its confluence with the Great Pee Dee. Along the way, the narrow Lynches twists and winds through the heart of the Pee Dee Country tourism region, an area of the state rife with both history and opportunities for outdoor adventures. Travelers to this region should put checking out the Pee Dee Tourism Commission website at the top of their trip-planning to-do list.
Gallery, Paddling Lynches River with Park Ranger Julian Robinson:
With four state-designated Scenic Rivers within its borders (the Great Pee Dee River, the Little Pee Dee River, the Little Pee Dee River in Dillon County and Lynches River) there’s no question that this region is a great place for paddlers, hikers and hunters. The SCDNR’s State Scenic Rivers program protects “unique or outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, botanical, fish, wildlife, historic or cultural values” by engaging river users and landowners along the corridors of these waterways to work collaboratively on conservation goals. Outdoorsmen and women can also take advantage of numerous outdoor recreation opportunities on other SCDNR-managed properties in the region such as the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve and Wildlife management Area, Marsh WMA, Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve, Pee Dee Station WMA, Lynchburg Savanna HP/WMA and Longleaf Pine HP/WMA, as well as numerous local public parks and privately-owned campgrounds.
If you’re looking for a day-trip destination that offers some great short hikes through a classic coastal plain floodplain forest, scenic river views and even paddling/river access, one of the region’s best options is the aforementioned 676-acre Lynches River County Park, located near Turbeville, in Florence County, which I explored on a recent muggy July day with some help from Park Ranger Julian Robinson. Paddlers are welcome to bring their own canoes and kayaks to the park (admission and parking are free), to take advantage of the fantastic tiered put in and explore the river downstream, but for visitors who might be visiting the Pee Dee Region without their own boats in tow, the park has another option. For a modest fee of just $30 for a kayak, or $35 for a canoe, (plus a $100 deposit) park staff will rent you a boat that you can use to traverse the river. Boats, paddles, life jackets and other equipment must be returned by the end of the day. Group rates and guided tours are also available, and arrangements can be made for pickup at your downriver destination and return to the park. Robinson said that a popular paddle was to leave the Park and go downstream to the landing at Highway 52, a trip of approximately five river miles, a trip of approximately two hours, depending on current streamflow and river levels. Call ahead to the park’s Environmental Discovery Center at (843)-389-0550 for more information and for group rates.
Environmental Discovery Center Gallery:
If you’ve got the time and inclination to keep going further, a trip down Lynches River can transport you back in time all the way to the Revolutionary War. In addition to being a state-designated scenic river, the section of Lynches below the County Park down to the confluence with the Great Pee Dee has also been designated as a “Revolutionary Rivers Trail” by the American Trails Organization. That’s where you’ll find Snow's Island, an area of swampland formed in the convergence of Lynches River, Clark Creek and the Great Pee Dee River. Snow's Island is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, because of its significance as a Revolutionary War campsite and retreat for General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, and his forces. Marion’s guerrilla fighters knew this area like the back of their hand, and their legendary ability to strike quickly and then fade into the swamp gave the British Forces in the backcountry of South Carolina fits and may well have altered the course of the war in favor of the Patriots. It’s an amazing place — an integral part of this region’s connection to the very roots of the Palmetto State’s beginnings — and surrounded by the deep stillness of the cypress-tupelo swamp, it’s not too difficult to imagine a ragged band of men astride marsh tacky horses ghosting through the trees to their hideout.
That’s a much longer trip, though one well-worth making, but for the day visitor, there’s plenty to see and do without ever leaving the Lynches River Park’s boundaries, beginning with the park’s Environmental Discovery Center. On the day I visited, a summer camp for kids was in progress, and the excited shouts of the day campers could be heard throughout the center, where during the school year, school classes from around the region come to take advantage of educational programs designed to further their knowledge of science and ecology and foster an interest in the natural world. It’s a wonderful building – the design is like a a truly great river house, but the center’s best feature is out the back door, where a system of suspension bridges takes you into the tree tops, connecting you to platforms surround giant cypress and oak trees looking out across the floodplain of the river. For the ten-year-old me who never got over his awe of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in the movies, it was a favorite part of my visit.
Canopy Walk Gallery:
Another wonderful amenity for the day user is the boardwalk trail that runs for approximately a quarter mile along the bank of the river. Lots of bird life to be found along this trail and the longer loop trails through the woods and along the river that connect the EDC/canoe launch area with the park’s upper end. That’s where you’ll find the splash pad water feature, as well as a pair of rental cabins for folks interested in an overnight stay.
At the other end of the park, closer to the entrance off of Old Highway 4 Road, you’ll find a tent and RV camping area, along with another unique amenity, an archery range, complete with a safe climbing tower to allow bowhunters to practice at the same approximate distance and angles they would be shooting at when using a tree stand for white-tailed deer in a realistic wooded setting. The archery range was built in 2010 in partnership with the SCDNR. Range users under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult, and everyone who uses the tower platform must provide and use their own safety harness.
There is so much for the outdoors-oriented visitor to see and do in Pee Dee Country that it would be difficult to experience it all in a day, but if your travels in this part of the state give you just a few hours or a day to spend, a visit to Lynches River County Park will give you a great window into all this region offers on an accessible scale that the whole family can enjoy in just one afternoon or morning. And if your travel itinerary gives you more time to spend, be sure and check out the other fantastic outdoor opportunities available in the region on SCDNR-managed properties, at private campgrounds or with the many outfitters who take guided trips on the region’s beautiful rivers.