Savannah Valley Railroad Trail
The Savannah Valley Railroad Trail is a “linear” park which results when unused railroad trails are repurposed into hiking and biking trails. Our trail is “rustic” meaning it is composed of densely packed soil with a grassy surface. Its mild grades are most suitable for walking and fat-tire biking. When completed, it will cover nearly 20 miles in McCormick County, South Carolina.
Enterprising civilians began to realize the astounding potential unused railroad beds represented in the late 1970’s when railroad service declined sharply. Repurposing these railroad beds into hiking and biking trails—when much of the construction labor and expense had been taken care of decades ago—quickly resulted in a “rails to trails” movement all across America.
Highlights of the trail
Naturally scenic—thanks to the wildlife, vegetation, and topography of the land. Threading through much forested land, the tree canopy provides pleasant shade to 90% of the trail. Views of the Savannah River provide a pleasing change of scenery.
Whistle posts—are over 120 years old; their embossed codes told train engineers what warnings to blow and when.
Mile markers—are posted every 0.5 miles
Historical sites—Pettigrew Plantation site and Springhouse, Badwell Cemetery, Huguenot Worship Site monument, 125-year-old train trestle; various additional sites are marked with posts and/or placards.
The Mill Creek Trestle (off Route 7) is a big crowd-pleaser. Utilizing a grant from SC Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, it was decked in cedar, and completed in October, 2014. This safely connected two stretches of the trail and allows a beautiful hike all the way to the Willington Trailhead on Route 81. The completed trail of 9.35 miles begins at the Barksdale Ferry Trailhead and ends in Willington.
Horses and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail.
Wear bright colors from October 1 through January 1. Hunters are not permitted to hunt from the trail but do access it at various points to reach their destinations.
Where is the trail?
McCormick County is located on the western border of South Carolina, just north of Augusta, Georgia. The Hugh C. Brown, Sr. Trailhead and kiosk/map is located on Barksdale Ferry Road, northwest of the town of McCormick. This portion of the original railroad trail connected Anderson and McCormick.
1870s Charleston & Western Carolina Railroad laid 58 miles of track from Anderson to McCormick, using a basic plan that Savannah Valley Railroad (hence our name) had first chartered in 1856.
1896 – 1940s About 360 miles of track were gradually added as railroad usage thrived throughout western South Carolina.
1952 The Great Depression, effects of the boll weevil, and increasing popularity of automobiles influenced the decline of passenger service. By 1955, the railroad was used for freight service only.
1978 Rail service was discontinued from Anderson to McCormick. A nationwide movement developed to convert unused railroad beds for hiking and biking trails. The South Carolina Department of Commerce acquired the railroad right of way in 1983.
1986, 1995, 2000, and 2006 Various feasibility studies regarding a local rails to trails effort were done in McCormick County.
2006 Joining Ninety Six District Resource Conservation and Development Council, McCormick County residents Frank Clayton (deceased), Don Norton, Bernie Hamby, Brad Allen, Wendy Linaberry, George Selfridge, Fred Muller, Elyse Benson, Sara Juengst, Dan Juengst (deceased), Robert Stockton, Ken Tinsley, and Wallace Wood took steps to organize a steering committee to develop the trail.
2008 Clearing of the first portion of the trail was initiated by enthusiastic volunteers.
2010 The 2.2 mile trail from Barksdale Ferry Road to Cemetery Road was opened to the public. This segment included a designated parking area on Barksdale Ferry Road. Various signage was installed.
2012 The Hugh C. Brown, Sr., Trailhead with kiosk and map was erected on Barksdale Ferry Road. The Brown Family graciously shares their property for parking close to the trail entrance. Savannah Valley Trails, Inc., and a governing board of directors was established; plans to “deck” the railroad trestle at Mill Creek were formulated.
2013 Ninety Six District Resource, Conservation and Development Council transferred the deed to the railway right of way from Route 28 to the northern boundary of McCormick County, to Savannah Valley Trails, Inc.
2014 SVT, Inc. obtained 501(c)(3) status. SC Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism awarded a grant to enhance the railroad trestle which connected two segments of trail but also enabled safe use by hikers and bikers. This significant project was completed in October, 2014.
Plans for Future Development
Phase I Clear the trail from the north end of the railroad trestle to Willington
Phase II Establish a trail head in Willington, in collaboration with Willington on the Way.
Phase III Open the two-mile stretch from Barksdale Ferry Road, southeast to Route 28.
Phase IV Clear the trail from the Willington Trail Head, north to McCormick County line.
Completing Phases I – IV will result in a linear park approximately 20 miles long—only two other rails to trails projects in SC are that long. (Note: With the development of Savannah Lakes Village, a two-mile portion of the original railroad trail was absorbed into the Huguenot Parkway in the late 1980’s. The paved surface links the otherwise continuous trail.)
Phase V To link the to-be-completed Savannah Valley Railroad Trail to already established trails in Baker Creek and Hickory Knob State Parks.
Step by step, you can help!
Use our trail! Tell your friends and relatives how great it is!
Volunteer! You could join our Bush Hawgs—that’s our “elite” group that grooms and maintains the trail once a month. Serve on our Board of Directors. Share grant writing skills, buy an official SVT tee shirt. And hey, a simple donation is always welcome!
Attend our annual Savannah Valley Trail / Frank Clayton Trail Event every October. This showcases our wonderful linear park and promotes this priceless county asset.
If any situation concerns you while you enjoy our trail, please report it. (Contact information follows.)
Did you know that linear parks enhance community pride, contribute to a more active life style, and add value to bordering properties?
Did you know that obesity shortens the estimated life expectancy of today’s children by five years?
QUESTIONS? Contact 2015-2016 Chair Allan Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vice Chair Butch Dieckhoner at email@example.com.
Webpage link address is: www.savannahlakes.com/trail
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SavannahValleyRailroadTrail
See ALL of SC Trails at www.traillink.com
John de la Howe Interpretive Trail
1.9 mile hiking trail starts to the right of the John de la Howe Dairy barn. Along the way numerous stops identify various plants, animals and their habitat. Call to obtain a brochure or pick one up in the Barn which is a country market run by students and senior adults (open Saturday 9-4). Directions from McCormick: Take SC28 North (Savannah River Scenic Highway) for about 6.5 miles. Left on Rt. 81 for 1.3 miles. Look for granite Barn on the right.
Contact: John de la Howe School (864) 391-2131.
Turkey Creek/Wine Creek Trails
Hiking and mountain biking trails are one linear trail. At the south end, Turkey Creek is one of the most popular MTB trails in the area. It starts at Key Bridge and is a little more than 7 miles of singletrack to a gravel cul-de-sac (FS 617A). It is relatively flat but does offer a few technical challenges. Generally it is easier than other trails in the area. Note: It is not a loop. Also starting at Key Bridge but traveling North is Wine Creek Trail, a much less traveled trail. Wine Creek is 5 miles long, all singletrack, ending at Hwy 283. Wine Creek shares the same traits as Turkey Creek: flat, fast, a few technical challenges, beautiful scenery…but several drawbacks. In the 5 miles, it has 22 bridges, some completely washed away. Best to ride in the Fall or early Spring. This trail can also be accessed from SC283 and ridden the opposite way to Key Bridge. Directions to Key Bridge from McCormick: Take SC28/US221 South to Plum Branch. Left onto SC283. Go about 3.5 miles, turn right onto Key Road (SC138). Trailhead is 4 miles on the right before bridge. Directions to Wine Creek from McCormick: Take SC28/US221 South to Plum Branch. Left on Rt. 283. Park at trailhead on right after you cross Wine Creek.
Contact: US Forest Service: (803) 637-5396
Approximately 5 miles of trail in this day use area which includes the main route with two spurs off of it and a circular path at the end with 4 spurs off of it. Directions from Parksville: Take SC28/Us221 North. See sign, turn left (west) onto Rd. #33-402. This paved road continues to the left past the curve. After pavement ends, travel the short distance to the gate which limits access.
Contact: Corps of Engineers (800) 533-3478 Ext. 1147
Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve
One of the most unique floristic sites in the Carolinas and second most outstanding site in the eastern Piedmont. The most significant habitat occurs between the ridge-tops and the flood plain on steep, north-facing bluffs. The loop trail takes a hiker through habitat which is thought to be a relict of a once widespread hardwood forest from an ancient glacial period. Except for an uphill trek at the end, it is an easy hike and takes approximately one hour. Wild flowers bloom in the early Spring. Directions from Clarks Hill: Before US221 intersection, turn right onto S33-88 from SC28, cross the RR tracks, turn left at the dead end. Sign on left before Stevens Creek Bridge.
Contact: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (803) 734-3886