Lake Conestee Nature Park
Geographic Location: south side of
Greenville, SC (34.77741, -82.35173)
Length: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: October 2012
Overview: A barbell-shaped hike with good aquatic wildlife viewing opportunities.
Park Information: http://lakeconesteenaturepark.com/
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=724210
Directions to the trailhead: Near
Greenville, take I-85 to the Mauldin Road exit (exit 46C). Exit and go south on Mauldin Road. Take Mauldin Rd. 2.4 miles to the signed entrance on the right. Turn right onto the park road. Pass restored Municipal Stadium on the right and some other baseball fields on the left. Park in the rear parking lot by the large wooden overhead sign that says, “ .” Lake Conestee Nature Park
The hike: Though it appears as a tranquil area of recreation today, the 400 acres comprising Lake Conestee Nature Park have a long industrial history. The first mill was built here in the 1790’s; the
provided the power needed to run the mill. By 1815, the Carruth Armory, a gun factory, was operating on this site. Next came a paper mill and factory complex in the mid-1800’s. The current dam that forms Reedy River was built in 1892. Lake Conestee
By the early 1900’s the
had become very polluted due to unchecked industrial development. In 1925, Conestee Mills filed a lawsuit to stop the pollution, a lawsuit that would pave the way for further environmental protection for this and other areas. Over the following years the lake began to fill in with sediment washed downstream from various construction projects between here and downtown Reedy River Greenville, including the construction of I-85. Thus far nearly 90% of the original lake has filled in, and part of this hike passes over the fill.
In 2000, the Conestee Foundation was formed to preserve what remains of the lake. The foundation has created
by purchasing 4 parcels of land surrounding the lake with additional purchases planned for the future. The park’s fine trail system comprises one of the best trail systems in the Lake Conestee Nature Park park district. The hike described here forms a barbell-shaped route that explores the trails on and east of the fill. Although this is a small park, there is much to see on this hike. Greenville County
|Trailhead at Lake Conestee|
The trail parallels the river upstream through the mixed Piedmont forest, which contains more broadleaf trees than pines. At 0.2 miles, you reach a boardwalk that carries the trail across a low area beside the river. The soil under the boardwalk was dry when I hiked this trail in mid fall, but it probably becomes wet other times of the year.
|Boardwalk of Forrester Farm Trail|
|Reedy River, as seen from trail bridge|
At 0.6 miles, the wide trail abruptly comes to a metal sign that says “Trail Closed Do Not Enter.” The Lakebed Loop turns left here to begin following a narrower path and arrive at the old west shore of
at 0.7 miles. You may not recognize Lake Conestee at this point: the channel is only a few yards wide, the water is only a few inches deep, and plants such as grasses and lotus cover most of the water surface. 60 years ago this point marked the edge of the open water, so the effect of the sedimentation is quite apparent. The lotus put on a nice flower show in late summer, so this area is not without beauty in spite of the sedimentation. Lake Conestee
|Sedimented-in channel of Lake Conestee|
The trail descends slightly to enter a wetter area that comprises the heart of the sediment-filled lake bed. Some two-plank-wide boardwalk takes you over the worst of the wet areas, but some other wet areas will need to be stepped around or over. Because this area was underwater only a few decades ago, only younger trees grow here.
|Narrow boardwalk on Lakebed Loop|
|Shallow lake at overlook|
The Forrester Farm Trail curves left as it assumes a level course through young forest with dense understory. The river has now disappeared out of sight to the right. Near 2 miles into the hike, the trail splits to form its small southern loop. Angle right to hike the loop counterclockwise.
About 400 feet later, you arrive at the southern-most overlook of
. The water here is much deeper and wider than what you saw at previous overlooks, although some algae still grows in the shallower water near the shore. This overlook offers some of the best wildlife viewing on this hike. On my visit a blue heron was wading in the shallow water, and several turtles were sunning on logs. Take a few minutes here to see what you can see. Lake Conestee
|Blue heron at final Lake Conestee overlook|