On our second weekend in the Southeast, the heat and humidity that welcomed us to Charleston vanished, leaving us freezing in the 40’s. We decided that this was perfect weather for visiting a “swamp”, so we headed inland to our country’s first canal – Old Santee Canal! My fingers were numb half the day, but I kept reminding myself that it was “probably better than swatting at mosquitos and drowning in humitidy.” 😉 Old Santee Canal Park is located off of highway 52 in Moncks Corner, SC, an hour Northwest of Charleston. It’s open daily from 9-5, they charge $3 per person for admission, and dogs are allowed on leash.
The canal opened in 1800, after 7 years of construction. It was created to connect the Santee and Cooper Rivers so that cargo could be easily transported from the farmers inland to the Charleston Harbor. It took over 700 laborers to help build the canal, and by the end, it was 22 miles long, 35 feet wide, and 5 ½ feet deep. It was used for over 30 years, though some years were more challenging than others due to droughts that would dry up the canal. In 1840, the railroad was completed, and within 10 years, the canal became obsolete. Most of the canal now lies underneath Lake Moultrie, while the park is centered around the Southernmost part where the canal enters Biggin Creek.
Today, the park offers events throughout the year, and there are trails throughout the park that let you walk along the old canal and creek. There are signs along the trails that help to teach about the history that took place here and the environment you’re walking through. I learned that there are 6 types of venomous snakes and over 100,000 alligators that call South Carolina home. The trail varies between a well maintained dirt trail, and a boardwalk that occasionally takes you to different viewing points over the canal. We spent a couple chilly hours there, making a big loop around the park, and finding a few letterboxes hidden around. We also saw our first cypress trees standing tall in the swamp! As far as hiking goes, it was no mountain, but as Curtis has said, “different places, different beauty”! At one point on the trail, it left the “comfort” of the boardwalks and descended right to the swamp’s level. (I was trying really hard not to wonder if some of the 100,000 alligators were watching us come to their level with great anticipation…) Even for having rained so much in the past weeks, the trails were still in good shape and thanks to some sketch bridges, we were able to stay dry – even Charlotte, who was absolutely adorable when crossing the wooden planks across the water! We were able to walk 2-3 miles, and after our walk, we enjoyed lunch in the picnic area under a big beautiful oak tree. I’m so happy to report that the only wildlife spotted today was one turtle, swimming through the water.
It’s not that I never want to see an alligator when I’m here, really…I just want to see one in the right situation. Like if I’m in the safety of my car, and he’s just off of the road chilling…or maybe in a zoo. Yeah, the zoo thing works for me. After living in AZ for so long and learning what to do in a situation with anything from a mountain lion to a bighorn sheep, I really need to learn what to do when being chased by an alligator. 😉
Anyway, the park also offers canoe rentals, an Interpretive Center, the Berkeley County Museum & Heritage Center, and the Story Landing Plantation, which was built in 1843. We didn’t get to experience those today since our dear Charlotte was with us, but we still enjoyed all that we could and would definitely go back for another walk through the woods. While we were walking through parts of the area, the ground was covered with crisp brown and red leaves, which means only one thing: there must be a “fall” season here! I’d love to return and see this place in different seasons.
After our visit to Old Santee Canal, we headed a little further North to visit the Biggins Church Ruins. Here are the remains of a parish church of St. John’s Parish. Biggins Church was built around 1710. During the American Revolution, the British stored ammunition here, and ended up burning the church when they left the area. They rebuilt the church after that, but after several more burnings they finally gave up in the late 1800’s. Today, only two walls remain, but the cemetery around the area is still in use.
We wandered around the graveyard, trying to find the oldest date there. (That proves difficult when the headstones are so worn down!) We are loving all the history there is to learn about around here, and love finding remains like this of the past. There’s so much to not only be seen here, but also to learn, and we’re overwhelmed and excited by that – there’s so little time to do it all! 🙂
To see more pictures from these places, visit savingtimeinabottleimages.tumblr.com. Also, I started the South Carolina page to our Travel Index, so if you’re headed to our corner of the country and looking for things to do, there’s a small list started, but trust me – it’s going to grow over the next couple months! 😉 We’ve also compiled our official “Bucket List,” filled with everything we want to do while we’re living in this beautiful state – I’ll be sharing that soon! I hope your week is going well, thank you so much for visiting! I don’t say that enough! 🙂