The tri-syllabic call of a barred owl rolls across the dimly lit forest as squealing wood ducks, silhouetted against a glowing horizon, split the firmament on whistling wings. A beaver, finishing up a hard night’s work of building wetlands, cuts the surface of the mirror-still water as he heads for his lodge.
LCNP is surely a gem for birdwatchers, hikers, botany enthusiasts, or anyone else who enjoys nature. However, it has not always been that way. Lake Conestee was created in the early 1800s in order to power a mill village and was originally a 140-acre lake. Since then, the natural process of sedimentation has filled in approximately 90-percent of the lake. However, the sediments that were deposited into the lake contain industrial pollutants. But in 2000, the Conestee Foundation endeavored to return Conestee lake and its surrounding landscapes back to wildness. At almost 400-acres and growing, LCNP represents a significant and ongoing success in land rejuvenation. Currently, the park boasts 2 miles of paved trails, 3 miles of natural trails and 1850 feet of boardwalks coursing visitors through a beautiful landscape. In addition, Lake Conestee Nature Park is recognized by Audubon South Carolina and Bird Life International as part of a global network of important bird areas (IBA).
Lake Conestee Nature Park consists of a menagerie of habitat types – extensive wetlands, mixed-deciduous forests, meadows and more. As you walk the trails you will notice a lot of beaver sign: gnawed trees, dams, lodges, etc; though the best times to catch a glimpse of one is early in the morning and late in the evening especially during the cooler months of the year. During the fall and winter you can expect to see a number of waterfowl species – wood ducks, mallards, mottled ducks, teal, hooded mergansers, Canada geese and more. There are two well-constructed and spacious observation decks offering visitors incredible views of open water and marshy wetlands. The trails and boardwalks take you through wooded wetlands and alongside creeks where you may encounter a wide variety of other birds and wildlife throughout the year.
Please visit www.conesteepark.com for more information, including trail maps, bird lists, sponsored activities, rules, and more.
Hunter S. Bridges