The Edisto River may be its big claim to fame, but Aiken State Park offers more than just access to North America’s longest free-flowing blackwater stream.
Built during the Great Depression by an African-American detachment of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 1,067-acre park features several fishing lakes, 25 campsites, hiking trails, a playground, three artesian wells and yes, a 1.7-mile canoe and kayak trail on the South Fork of the Edisto River near Aiken.
It’s everything you need for a fun outdoor getaway.
When I visited the park with a friend earlier this fall, I started out the day paddling the popular river trail. We brought our own kayaks, but rentals are available for $15.
Hungry from our not-so-strenuous trip, we parked ourselves on a picnic table by the Children’s Pond for a waterfront lunch. Refueled and ready to stretch our legs, we hit the 2.7-mile Jungle Trail, a level, easy-to-follow loop through the woods.
“It’s unique because it has 13 boardwalks,” Park Manager Robert Mahoney told us. “You’ll walk through a mix of wetlands and pine and hardwood forest.”
Despite its name, there’s no danger of running into elephants, chimpanzees or Tarzan. This trail is tame enough for tikes. Fido is welcome too, but you’ll need to keep him on a leash.
Along with some footbridges and picnic shelters, those hardworking CCC boys also excavated six artesian wells. Three of them are accessible to the public. You can find them by the Fish Lake Shelter, the canoe trail put-in and the cabin at Cabin Lake.
“People come here just to fill up on the water,” Mahoney said. “I try to take three sips a day. I don’t know if it will heal you, but it will quench your thirst.”
The park also boasts three fishing lakes. The 14-acre Cabin Lake was recently refurbished and restocked with largemouth bass, shellcracker and bluegill. It will reopen next May. You can also fish along the riverbank for bream, bass and catfish. A South Carolina fishing license is required.
Forgot to pack your fishing gear? No problem. Aiken State Park is a Fishing Tackle Loaner Program site. Sponsored by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the program provides everything you need to go fishing including rod, reel and tackle. Catching the fish is up to you.
Several geocaches also are located in the park. For information on the locations, visit www.geocaching.com.
To get the full scoop on Aiken State Park, click here or call (803) 649-2857.