If you're into mountain biking, hiking, fishing, camping or paddling, you need to get up to the Little River Blueway, an extraordinary outdoor adventure area located within Sumter National Forest at the convergence of Little River and Lake Thurmond, a large, deep, clear lake with 1,200 miles of shoreline.
This recreational wonderland boasts 51 miles of diverse and scenic water trails, 136 miles of hiking and biking trails, two state parks, four golf courses, five campgrounds and a skeet and archery range.
With kayaks and mountain bikes in tow, we drove last weekend to McCormick, a charming small Southern town about 90 minutes due west of Columbia. It serves as a convenient launching point to explore the Little River Blueway.
Before hitting the trails, we decided to get a lay of the land by taking the Little River Blueway's 50-mile scenic drive loop. Following portions of the S.C. National Heritage Corridor and the Savannah River Scenic Highway, the route passes several historic sites dating back to 1760.
Our first stop was the Huguenot Worship Site on a peninsula of wooded land near the confluence of Cane Creek and the Little River. The French Huguenots, who settled in the area in 1764, built a log church here to worship freely. The church is long gone, but a stone monument marks the site of the Huguenot Church at New Bordeaux.
Just up the road is the Badwell Cemetery, the burial ground of the Rev. Jean Louis Gibert, leader and founding pastor of the French Huguenot settlement in McCormick County. This historic family cemetery features many mid-19th century grave monuments. A number of slaves, including the faithful servant "Daddy Tom," are buried outside the walled graveyard.
We also stopped by the John De La Howe School, founded in 1797 as a farm school for poor and orphaned children. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it sits on 1,200 acres overlooking Lake Thurmond. The distinctive barn and silo, built in 1931, now serves as a country market.
A map and guide to the Little River Blueway Outdoor Adventure Area pinpoints all of the historic sites on the route, as well as hiking and biking trails, paddling trails and separate detailed maps to Hickory Knob State Park, Baker Creek State Park and several popular mountain biking trails.
You can pick up one of these handy maps for $5 at regional convenience stores and other locations in the area, or click here to download a high quality digital version.
In upcoming blog posts, I'll tell you about our kayaking trip on Long Cane Creek and two of the rad trails in Hickory Knob State Park.