A single automobile inching down Bonneau Ferry Road will set wild turkeys to scurrying, quail on the wing and snowy waterfowl to lift off like a sheet being pulled from the surface of Nimitz Lake.
Secondary clay arteries intersect Bonneau Ferry Road, coursing through the pine forests and wetlands, often narrowing to the width of a midsized sedan, winding over culverts and past dammed ponds and streams.
Roads that prohibit motorized vehicles are easily explored on foot; black-headed fox squirrels leap into the brush as visitors approach. Hoof prints in the freshly turned earth suggest larger game had been through recently.
Curious hikers and birders can freely wander nearly all of the 11,000 acres of Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area to their hearts' content.
It hasn't been so very long since Bonneau Ferry was transferred from land management group MeadWestvaco into the care of the state Department of Natural Resources. Completed in 2005, the transfer meant travelers with varied interests would have yet another wonderful outdoor destination to explore and enjoy.
Bonneau Ferry's hardwood bottomland and lakes are homes to abundant wildlife that attract hunters roughly nine months out of the year. Non-hunters are free to explore when no hunts are scheduled. That generally means on Sundays during hunting season and most anytime from May to the first of September.
For me, Bonneau Ferry WMA is home to other hidden treasures: the ruins of Comingtee -- one of the state's earliest plantation homes, which dates to the early 1700s -- and Stoke, the plantation's rice mill on the west branch of the Cooper River, which dates to the early 1800s. Behind the rice mill, the Cooper River laps at the shore, no doubt in the same way it did when John and Affra Coming arrived from England in the 1680s.
Chains encircling both buildings and signs warn visitors against trespassing, taking away loose bricks or in any other way contributing to the structures' decay. Even as hollowed out shells overgrown with verdant vegetation, Comingtee and Stoke are fascinating emblems of the richness of South Carolina history and the ingenuity of its people.
Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area
305 Black Oak Road
From Interstate 26 take exit 199. Follow U.S. 17A to Moncks Corner. Turn left on U.S. 52. Cross Tailrace Canal, take the first right on S.C. 402 toward Cordesville. Travel 9.1 miles to Bonneau Ferry, which will be on the right (less than one mile past railroad tracks in Cordesville).
This is not a park, strictly speaking, but is open for general use by the public when there are no scheduled hunts. DNR urges visitors to bring drinking water and insect repellent. Parking is available along the road ways but the area has no trash receptacles -- "pack it in, pack it out." And, DNR Zone 6 rules and regulations for hunting and fishing are enforced at Bonneau Ferry.