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Find more than shells at Edisto

By Steve Palisin
spalisin@thesunnews.com

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    Edisto Beach State Park is on the south end of S.C. 174, between Charleston and Savannah, Ga. Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission: $5; $3.25 for S.C. seniors and ages 6-15. Info: 843-869-2156; www.southcarolinaparks.com/edistobeach.

    The park’s Environmental Learning Center hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Area info: 888-333-2781; www.edistochamber.com.



South Carolina has its own “ace in the hole” at Edisto Beach State Park, near the confluence of three rivers: the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto – part of a watershed buffer zone for the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Distance

The park, on the coast between Charleston and Savannah, Ga., is approximately 230 miles from Charlotte, about a four-hour drive, one way.

To see and do

Two islands make up Edisto Beach – barrier and sea, bisected by a narrow creek – and the park is among four S.C. state parks on the Atlantic Coast.

Edisto Beach is remote, but with quite the visual reward at the end of the road.

Even with a stiff, constant breeze, the place never slows down with folks going up and down the 1.5-mile beach.

Taking the boardwalk from the parking lot, you’ll see the beach widens to the east. Rows of palmetto trees lines the coast, with an incline overlooking the east section of beach.

Under clear skies, you can scan islands along the natural coastline in either direction – Seabrook and Kiawah to the northeast, Harbor and Hunting to the southwest – with no high-rises in sight.

The beach is rockier, with bigger, sharper, more pointed shells than commonly found on the Grand Strand’s oceanfront parks.

After a beach stroll, a picnic at a table under a grove of palmetto trees might feel like a refreshing respite from the wind.

That’s only half of the park, though. Head about a mile north on S.C. 174 and turn left, or west, into the larger park section.

A long driveway leads to the newly built Education Learning Center. A stroll inside could exceed an hour, covering many aspects of the history of the ACE Basin and the lay of the land. Just the lobby display of shells found in the area might whet the appetite to head back out to the beach in search of certain nature-made designs.

Interactive displays include aquariums and extra insight into the diamond terrapin. An alligator skeleton on exhibit probably reaches 12 feet in length, with the head accounting for at least 2 feet.

Outside the center, choose among various handicap-friendly trails in a maritime forest and follow in the footsteps of American Indians and U.S. history. See what’s called “the Spanish Mount” – a shell midden, or mound – that Edisto Indians built by piling oyster shells 4,000 years ago.

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