Fall seems to have settled in and the temperatures have dropped. Now is the perfect time to explore the surrounding areas for great places to hike or bike.
“The citizens of the CSRA are very fortunate to have a wealth of trails to enjoy as hiker, mountain biker or equestrian. The U.S. Forest Service has numerous trails in the Modoc South Carolina area while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boasts a massive trail system around Thurmond Lake,” said David Quebedeaux, park ranger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.
Just at the end of Evans-to-Lock Road, you will come upon the Savannah Rapids Park and Savannah Rapids Regional Visitors Center (www.savannahrapids.com/). This is the starting point of a nice 7.5-mile trail that takes you to downtown Augusta and is considered a low-level difficulty trail. The trail has several places to stop which not only attracts hikers but also fishers, bikers, picnickers and birdwatchers as they make their way on the towpath to downtown Augusta.
Here you will also find the historic Augusta Canal National Heritage Headgates area. Built in 1845, the headgates were the starting point of a waterway that bypassed the rapids on the Savannah River and facilitated shipping between the Piedmont plateau and the City of Augusta.
Just across the downtown bridge in North Augusta, South Carolina, is the Greeneway multi-use path which provides over 7 miles of paved trail perfect for walking and biking at a leisurely pace. One of the unique features on this trail is the 180-foot pedestrian bridge that crosses SC230, a major thoroughfare of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor.
If you want to step out of your comfort zone and want a challenge, there are more difficult trails in the area.
Quebedeaux says, “The Corps has several trails around J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake in Clarks Hill, S.C. Their trails can accommodate, hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers. One trail can even accommodate adventure seekers on horseback.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Bartram Trail is designated by the Department of Interior as a national recreation trail. It is part of the National Trails System, a network of about 15,000 miles of trails that link communities to recreational opportunities on public lands and in local parks across the nation.
“The Bartram Trail is well identified with yellow blazes. Caution should be taken as the trail crosses several roads as it meanders through the woods. For added safety, orange vests should be worn by all trail users during hunting seasons,” said Quebedeaux.
Spanning 27 miles, the Bartram Trail is a multi-purpose trail used for hiking and biking. Quebedeaux said the trail that winds its way along the shores and forests of Thurmond Lake is popular with mountain bikers and trail runners.
Another option in the area managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the Bussey Point Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, Georgia. Bussey Point is a 2,545-acre peninsula at the confluence of the Savannah River and Little River on J. Strom Thurmond Lake.
The Bussey Point Horse Trail is 12.4 miles long and circles the peninsula. Working with partners, the Corps has built 14 campsites near the trail entrance for general use but have equestrian amenities available for persons camping with horses. The roads and trails throughout the area cover roughly 20 miles and are also open to hikers and mountain bikers. The area is closed to hikers and others during annual management hunts.
The ranger’s favorite trail in the CSRA is Bussey Point.
"I sometimes mountain bike but I prefer boots on the ground. When I am walking there, I get to see more and enjoy the tracks of animals that have used the trail before me. I get to savor the outdoors when I hike,” said Quebedeaux.
Also in this area you will find that the U.S. Forest Service has several trails known as the Forks Area Trails System (F.A.T.S.). While configured for mountain biking, these trails enjoy a considerable number of hikers. Maps of these trails can be found at www.trailforks.com/region/forks-area-trail-system/trails.
With any outdoor activity, certain safety measures should be followed.
Quebedeaux advises the following when participating in outdoor activities on the trails:
• File a hiking plan with a friend. Make sure to let people know where you are going and when you should be back.
• Bring a fully charged cell phone.
• Bring drinkable water. Being in the South, dehydration is a factor all year long while using trails.
• Bring snacks.
• Don’t go alone.
• Know the trail. Most trailheads in the area will have paper maps available.
• Pack pockets with a few essentials like a pocket knife, small first aid kit, butane lighter, compass, small flashlight and whistle. Know how to use them in an emergency.
• Wear proper shoes for the terrain and weather.
While you are enjoying the outdoors in the CSRA, you might encounter wildlife such as deer, rabbits, beaver raccoon, squirrel, eagles, hawks and assorted birds.
Quebedeaux stated, "While it is possible to encounter a snake of some type, it is unlikely since not many are seen by the public or Rangers. However, there is a pond near Petersburg Campground with a few easily seen alligators. The gators don't ever seem interested in humans, but I wouldn't advise letting a dog get near the shores of that pond."
Find more information on the Corps of Engineers trails at: www.sas.usace.army.mil/About/Divisions-and-Offices/Operations-Division/J-Strom-Thurmond-Dam-and-Lake/Plan-a-Visit/Trails.