Explore America's park logoThe headline attraction at Edisto Beach State Park near Charleston, S.C., is 1.5 miles of palmetto-lined beach pristine enough to be the nesting grounds of endangered loggerhead turtles. But the marshes, creeks and maritime forests of the park are worth exploring as well, either by canoe, kayak or on foot via the state's longest system of handicapped-accessible hiking trails.

 

But if you while away a day — or two — just walking up and down the beach collecting shells, well, that’s OK, too.

 

History

The land for Edisto Beach State Park was donated in 1935 by Edisto Company and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs during the Great Depression. A number of buildings built by the CCC are still in use at the park.

 

Things to do

A hike along the Spanish Mount trail — the park’s longest at 1.7 miles — takes you through maritime forest of live oak-draped Spanish moss and palmetto trees, the palm-like state tree of South Carolina. You’ll also pass through salt marsh on your way to Spanish Mount, a large shell mound more than 4,000 years old next to Scott Creek. Hiking in or out, veer off onto the Forest Loop trail to add a half mile to the trip.

 

Sunset at EdistoMake any walk in the woods — or along the beach — more than just walk by renting a naturalist’s backpack stuffed with two pairs of binoculars, bird identification guides, Birdsong Identiflyer and soundcards, hand lenses and magnifying boxes, a pocket microscope, bird list and more. After the expedition, visit the Education Learning Center that features a touch tank.

 

Why you’ll want to come back

You can stay here cheap. The park has a deal on a 30-day campsite reservation for $300 (plus taxes and reservation fees) from Nov. 27 through Feb. 29, 2012.

 

Flora and fauna

The marshes and maritime forests of live oak, water oak, cabbage palmetto, sweet bay and red cedar shelter a variety of critters. You may see whitetail deer, gray fox and raccoon slipping through the brush. Closer to the water, keep an eye out for alligators, river otter and mink.

 

Walking along the beach you might spot Atlantic bottlenose dolphin cruising beyond the breakers or a loggerhead sea turtle laboring to build a nest.

 

Hundreds of different kinds of birds live in, or visit, the park. Permanent residents include great blue herons, white ibis, brown pelicans, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, Wilson’s plovers, killdeer, quail, blue jays, a variety of warblers and an assortment of woodpeckers.

 

By the numbers:

  • Website: South Carolina state parks
  • Park size: 1,255 acres or 1.96 square miles
  • 2010 visitation: 289,928
  • Funky fact: Edisto Beach State Park is part of the 350,000 acre ACE Basin — the drainage of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers.
 
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.
 

Inset photo of sunrise over Edisto Beach at the state park: scmikeburton/Flickr