Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site (Blog Hike #443)

Trail: Tyger River Trail
Hike Location: Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site
Geographic Location: south of Union, SC
Length: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: September 2013
Overview: A short out-and-back to the banks of the Tyger River.

Directions to the trailhead: On the southwest side of Union, take US 176/SR 215 to Sardis Road; there is a traffic light at this intersection.  Turn south (outbound) on Sardis Rd.  Drive Sardis Rd. 8 miles to the historic site entrance on the left.  Drive through the wrought-iron gate, angle right where a gravel road exits left, and park in the small gravel parking lot to the right of the house.  There is room here for 6-8 cars.

The hike: The region south of the Mason-Dixon line is dotted with historic antebellum plantations, but few of them have the history of Rose Hill Plantation.  Built in the 1830’s, Rose Hill Plantation was the home of William Henry Gist, the governor of South Carolina from 1858 to 1860.  Gist is most famous for his leadership of the south’s secessionist movement following the election of President Lincoln, a movement that led to the Civil War.
            In 1860, the plantation reached its apex, producing nearly 300 bales of cotton and over 4000 bushels of corn.  These products would be floated down the adjacent Tyger River or, because the Tyger River is only navigable part of the year, transported by cart to the Broad River.  The plantation survived Union General Sherman’s destructive 1864 march because the flooded Broad River made the plantation inaccessible to his army.  After the war, Gist received a pardon from President Johnson, after which he returned to Rose Hill to lease the plantation to sharecroppers.  Gist died in 1874, and he is buried in a cemetery plot adjacent to the plantation house.
            Today Rose Hill Plantation house sits on the 44-acre state historic site that bears its name, but most of the plantation grounds lie in Sumter National Forest, which surrounds the historic site.  Plantation house tours are offered at 1, 2, and 3pm on most afternoons, but the plantation grounds are open during all daylight hours.  For hikers, two short trails tour the grounds: the 0.6 mile nature trail loop and the 0.94 mile out-and-back Tyger River Trail.  This hike combines both trails to see all the site has to see.
Hiking Trailhead
            Start by walking downhill across a grassy area to an information board at the edge of the forest that marks the trailhead.  The trail enters the woods and descends gently through a mixture of pine and broadleaf trees.  At 0.15 miles, the trail forks.  The nature trail loop continues to the left, and we will go that way eventually.  For now, turn right to begin the spur trail to the Tyger River.  A small wooden sign here indicates that this trail is 2 miles long, but it is less than half that distance based on my measurements.
            Marked with large black paint blazes, the Tyger River Trail meanders through the forest in the general direction of northeast.  At 0.4 miles, the trail narrows as it enters a grassy area.  I walked through some poison ivy somewhere along this trail.  I am not sure where I encountered the irritating shrub, but this area would be a good candidate.
Crossing Tyger River floodplain
            After crossing the grassy area, the trail descends some wooden steps to enter the Tyger River floodplain.  The path through the floodplain can be hard to discern, so watch for the black paint blazes.  The trail turns left to briefly follow an old or overflow river channel before arriving at the west bank of the Tyger River.  I hiked this trail in a light drizzle, and I could see the drops hit the calm, muddy water even though I could not feel them under the trees.
Tyger River
            The Tyger River Trail ends at the river bank, so next you must backtrack 0.5 miles to the junction with the Nature Trail loop.  On my visit, the remainder of the loop was closed due to a large number of downed trees, so I had to turn left here to return to the trailhead.  If the trail has reopened, walk straight at this junction to continue the loop.
Back porch of Rose Hill Plantation
            The last 0.4 miles of the nature trail makes a semicircle in the forest with the plantation house uphill and to the left.  At 1.6 miles, you come out in the grassy clearing just downhill from the house.  Before you leave, take some time to explore the plantation’s outbuildings, rose garden, and formal garden, or if you time your visit in the early afternoon, take a tour of the plantation house itself to immerse yourself in the history of Rose Hill Plantation.

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