SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Ellicott’s Rock

I always remember Ellicott’s Rock because it is the rock I went in search of with my now husband the day after I asked him to marry me. I suspect most women expect to be presented with a different kind of rock in this sort of situation. He still helped me look for it though!

There are two rocks in this location. One is Ellicott’s Rock, which marks Andrew Ellicott’s best survey/guess as to the border between GA and NC back in 1811 when he was trying to determine the boundary between the two states. It is marked with an N-G. Nearby (though no one seems to know exactly where) is Commissioner’s Rock, which marks the boundary where NC and SC meet. It is marked with the inscription “Lat 35 AD 1813 NC + S.C”. Neither are easy to find, nor can they be found when the water is up as the river covers the faint inscriptions. My grandmother, the last member of the family to successfully locate the rocks back in the 80s/prehistory, says the inscriptions are faint and may be near the underside/water line on the rocks themselves and the rocks are IN the river. Needless to say, I have not definitively found these myself yet, and will have to keep trying!


Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  6.2 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the rocks and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

***The rocks are not easy to find  and will require bushwhacking to see as the small sign that used to mark their location is gone.***

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.


Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and rarely requires any uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. There used to be a bridge here, but there isn’t anymore.

Fly fisherman on the Chattooga River

The trail continues along the river, beginning to pass rustic campsites (note camping is not allowed anywhere near the trail head or along the river near the road) and eventually terminating in a large open area where the trout fishermen generally camp during the January to February fishing season. Walk straight through this confusing mess, following the Chattooga River and you will see a bridge crossing a significant tributary joining the Chatooga. Cross the bridge, and on the far side signage will indicate you need to go left and hike 1.8 mi to Ellicot’s Rock.

Continue to hike along the river until you reach the location (Google Maps has it marked – 35°00’03.3″N 83°06’30.5″W), then look along the river bank for the rocks as the small sign that used to be there is gone. If you reach the switch backs and start climbing the mountain side you have gone too far. If you pass a large boulder mid stream with a small sapling growing from the top you aren’t there yet. The area to search has several sandy islands in the river.


TRAIL MAP

Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The rocks in question (both Ellicott’s Rock and Commissioner’s Rock) are not visible when the water is up! If you need to see them, you need to come during a dry spell.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.
  4. The rocks are hard to find and the inscriptions are faint. You may need water proof shoes and be willing to get muddy to find them.

In sum: 

The interesting bit about all this is because Georgia failed to give Ellicott good survey equipment and failed to contest the mis-survey of the state boundary today Georgia fights with Tennessee over water rights for water in the Tennessee River that it would have had – if it had gotten the survey done correctly!

SOUTH CAROLINA: History Hike to Guignard Brickyard, Congaree Creek Earthworks, Old Fort Congaree, Granby, and Granby Locks on Cayce River Walk and Three Rivers Greenway

History in the low country of South Carolina is as rampant as the kudzu. Columbia, SC, as the capital of the state, is no exception. On this trip to Columbia I explored the Guignard Brick Yard, the forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, as well as the Civil War era Congaree Creek Earthworks and the long lost Fort Congaree of the Revolutionary War. For further history this can be combined with Columbia’s wonderfully rebuilt canal walk, which is just upstream of this area.

So take a day out and explore the past in Columbia, SC!


Is it goat friendly: No, but it is dog friendly.

Distance to hike: 6 miles will get you from Granby Landing, around Fort Congaree/Congaree Creek Earthworks and back on the Cayce Riverwalk, plus the mile round trip from Jones Park to Granby/Granby Locks as well as the short walk from parking to the Guignard Brick Works.

Easy paved trails

How to get there: Park at the Thomas Newman Public Boat Landing (33°56’57.3″N 81°01’45.8″W). Go south on the Cayce Riverwalk to visit the Congaree portion of the trip. Then park at Jones Park (33°57’57.3″N 81°02’21.5″W) to go to Granby/Granby Locks. Finally, drive up to the Guignard Brick Works located at 33°59’18.8″N 81°03’01.7″W.


The Guignard Brick Works began in the 1800s utilizing clay from the banks of the Congaree River to make the bricks out of which Columbia and other towns in the South were built. The current kilns were built in the 1920s and the fourth was rebuilt in 1932 when the original beehive kiln on the site burned down. While the current site has lost its picturesque dirt road and surrounding pine trees and has been sandwiched by unsightly apartment complexes, the kilns and their accompanying brick office are so unique they are worth a visit from the Three River’s Greenway that passes just below them along the river.

Guignard Brick Works in use

Granby Marker
Granby Locks

The forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, which dwindled into nothing in the early 1800’s as the capital Columbia on the opposite shore of the river drew away it’s people and business, lies just north of the Jones Park on the Three Rivers Greenway. Only a stone marker and an interpretive sign remain sitting in the middle of what was once the high street. This side of the river has a history of being less popular than Columbia proper into the modern day. In the late 20th century, despite being in spiting distance of the state house, this area was essentially rural, hosting blue collar neighborhoods, heavy industry (such as steel works and gold mining), nuclear facilities, and the sewage treatment plant. Though obvious signs of gentrification are over running the area, its nice to remember that the good parts of the past remain with us, even if they are only there in spirit.


Visible remains of earthworks

The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks and Old Fort Congaree are found along the Congaree Creek, a meandering swamp area traversed by the Cayce Riverwalk. The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks have a historical sign, but the eroded remains of the moat and wall surrounding Old Fort Congaree are unplacarded and difficult to distinguish from the later Civil War era workings.

The Old Fort Congaree was on the edge of the Saxe Gotha Township, an area of land grants provided to Swiss immigrants in the 1700s when the area was still under British control. Fort Congaree was an indian trading post that was abandoned after its small garrison left it to join George Washington and fight the Revolutionary War. Afterwards as white settlement encroached upon it, the Native Americans died out from war and disease, and as Indian trading moved further into the interior of South Carolina it was left to be flooded and eventually sedimented into oblivion by the yearly bank overtopping of the adjacent Congaree River. Flooding was once a very common occurrence on the Congaree River before modern flood control methods were introduced. The remains of the fort weren’t rediscovered until 1989, at which point archaeological investigations found the remains of pottery, glassware, tobacco pipes, and construction materials.

The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks were built by conscripted black labor including free blacks to defend Columbia from the approach of General Sherman’s Union troops. A battle between Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers occurred at the hastily constructed earthworks on February 15th, 1865. Modern archaeological digging has uncovered fired bullets and shell fragments from the battle and the earth works themselves are still easily visible from the trail.


Trail Map

Full greenway map

BEWARE

  1. Alligators supposedly live along Congaree Creek. Don’t go play in the water. These are relatively recent immigrants – alligators were not in Congaree in my mother’s generation (before the 1990s).
  2. The Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve Parking area is closed for some reason…just park at the boat landing instead.
  3. While all sites listed can be reached from a greenway, not all sites can be reached from the same greenway.
  4. Parking is very limited at the Brickworks.

In Sum:

The banks may change, but the river keeps flowing to the sea, just as it did in the 1700s. Though back then they didn’t have the hideous green frog trashcans…