Walking along the boardwalk on the Blue Heron Trail in Ridgeland, you can easily forget Interstate 95 lies just 700 feet away.
Instead of the constant whoosh of cars whizzing along the pavement, visitors enjoy the twitter of birds and the sound of rustling leaves echoing through the trees. In this lush wetland, traffic is limited to pedestrians and the wildlife that makes its home here.
Located off Exit 21, the 10-acre Blue Heron Nature Center offers relief for the road weary, and it's as easy to get to as any rest area. You can stretch your legs, shake off the mind-numbing monotony of the highway and get back behind the wheel refreshed and energized.
The half-mile loop trail includes a section of boardwalk through a forested wetland filled with ferns and native plants. The other half of the trail circles a pond inhabited by turtles, ducks, alligators and the namesake herons. Several overlooks along the recycled rubber pathway provide a good vantage point to spot wildlife.
At the southernmost end of the pond is a butterfly garden. Just across the street is Ralph Tuten Park, a linear brick plaza with a fountain, benches and a beautiful sculpture of a pair of blue herons in flight.
Along with the trail, the Blue Heron Nature Center includes a 4,200-square-foot education building featuring nature displays, meeting space and restrooms. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and during special events on weekends. Admission is free to both the trail and Learning Center.
To visit the Blue Heron Nature Center, take Exit 21 on I-95 and drive west on SC Hwy 336. Turn right at the first gas station. The trail can be accessed from the parking lot of the Comfort Inn or the Learning Center.