(Sept. 28, 2011) - The freshwater coast of western South Carolina is known for great biking trails, a paddling trail or two, along with several parks and campgrounds throughout the national forest lands. Ask any avid biker or paddler in the region and they are sure to have their own favorite trail within the Sumter National Forest, along the shores of Lake Thurmond (Clarks Hill Lake) or Steven’s Creek. Yet, it has always been difficult and often frustrating for those unfamiliar with this area to locate trails and find detailed information and mapping of the wide array of exceptional outdoor sporting amenities offered throughout this region… That is until the launch of the Little River Blueway Adventure Area project.
In the late fall of 2009, a hand full of people (with passions for outdoor sports, land conservation, and reconnecting families with nature) looked at the abundance of natural, historical, recreational, and cultural assets in this region, and acknowledged the need to make the area more accessible to visitors and residents of McCormick and the 4,000 acre community of Savannah Lakes Village & Golf Clubs. After several meetings with key stakeholders within and around the project area, Outdoor Initiative, Inc., (an outdoor recreation tourism-focused 501c-3 nonprofit) went to work. “We soon had a comprehensive plan in place for promoting the benefits of outdoor recreation and conservation within this uniquely preserved section of the Sumter National Forest and the waterways predominately located in the extreme northern area of the CSRA” stated David Twiggs, co-founder of Outdoor Initiative (OI). In addition to great paddling waters and epic mountain bike trails, it was discovered that the area offers hundreds of beautiful campsites, golf, skeet/ clay shooting, countless acres of preserved forestland and numerous historical sites to round out the mix. The Little River and Long Cane Creek watershed, part of the tributaries that feed Lake Thurmond, define the border of the bioregion and the outdoor recreation system provided throughout these public lands.
Once inventorying, planning and mapping were complete, OI began developing online and print materials to make it easy for people to access the information necessary to use the wide variety of resources found throughout the initial 63,000 acres of contiguous public forestlands. The ultimate result of this planning is a recreation system called The Little River Blueway Outdoor Adventure Area. The project collects the county, state and federal-owned public resources across the project area and allows for the promotion of an overall recreation system under one geographic brand. “Another benefit of pooling all regional outdoor sporting resources into an overall system is the ability to provide one comprehensive online calendar, which includes everything from ultra 50K trail runs and triathlons to events and activities for the far less extreme users,” said Kirk Smith, who is also a co-founder of O.I. The project area currently includes and has mapped out a usage guide for fifty-one miles of water trails over 22 paddling sections, 136 miles of hiking and biking trails, three state parks, three USACE parks, four golf courses and a 50-mile scenic drive through small rural towns and the Sumter National Forest.
“It’s an astonishing conglomeration of recreational opportunities,” exclaimed Kathy Pettit, a feature recreation and lifestyle writer for the Center for Carolina Living.
And new resources are being developed in the area as we speak, such as the Savannah Valley Railroad Trail (a rails to trail project through the national forest being developed by a group of local volunteers from Savannah Lakes Village and the surrounding area). To make this project possible, OI brought together several “Blueway Partners” with the common objective of creating a greater public awareness of the benefits of outdoor recreation in the CSRA. These partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Carolina State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
The project also just created an alliance with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA). Paul Farrow, president of the local SORBA chapter is very happy to see this type of initiative taking place in the CSRA. “I continually get contacted by out of town people who want more information about our local trails and accommodations. This partnership will help visiting outdoor enthusiasts identify local trails and other necessities while planning their visit,” said Farrow.
Even though the project has already launched, OI is continuing to plan and to broaden the reach of the Little River Blueway within the CSRA. Additional trails and other amenities are constantly being added to the website.
Regardless of your favorite outdoor activity, the Little River Blueway provides countless opportunities for “getting lost in nature” and exploring the biodiversity of the adventure area. All located within 35 minutes of Augusta, GA and 2.5 hours from Atlanta, it is a remarkable escape from the city. Keep a sharp eye out for bald eagles, blue herons, hawks, red fox, deer, raccoons, wild pigs and much more!
Stop by the McCormick Chamber of Commerce or the Savannah Lakes Village Visitors Center for a pocket map and guide to the Little River Blueway Outdoor Adventure Area. You will also want to visit the Little River Blueway website (www.LittleRiverBlueway.org
) for a calendar of events and other usage information for planning your next trip. The website provides free downloads of all regional trails maps, including an overall Little River Blueway project map. While there, link over to the Little River Blueway Facebook page to join in on the conversation and share your outdoor adventures!
Little River Blueway Adventure Map
About Savannah Lakes Village
With 25 miles of shoreline along 1,200 total miles of unspoiled shoreline offered by Lake Thurmond, easy access to an over-abundance of outdoor recreation sports, and the peace of mind that comes with property ownership within an established member-owned community, Savannah Lakes Village is the perfect lakefront destination for over 2,000 primary home and vacation home owners.
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