By Jim Farrell, 2023 SCDNR Intern
Growing up in rural upstate New York, all I knew of South Carolina was the 95 Corridor catered to snowbirds traveling from the northeast to winter homes in Florida. I hated this area, the busy hotels and chaotic traffic at every exit.
Despite this I frequenty enjoyed an early morning Waffle House breakfast before hitting the road, as often we would stop for the night in South Carolina. People were just so nice here. I knew if there was a place like this without so many people it would be amazing.
I was always captivated by the meandering dark green rivers the highway crossed over. I would stare down into the opaque water as long as it remained in view. I imagined the places those rivers went as well as the diverse fish and wildlife that called them home. They weren’t lined with houses like other bodies of water, I figured this was due to the dark green opaque water. This color was a little disconcerting, you see back home the majority of our lakes and rivers are at least as clear as Jocassee, due to an invasive mussel that filters the water. As I grew up, I learned less water visibility generally meant better fishing. I soon started to dream of the catfish that hid in those mysterious green waters.
When the time came for me to go to college, I had become exhausted with depressing long winters back home. I decided to attend Clemson University. I was off the 95 corridor but despite being in what seemed like a rural area, traffic was everywhere. I found Clemson to be extremely busy, especially downtown. I had come from a place where maybe 10 cars drive past my house everyday, and that’s in the busy summer season. At first, I was exasperated by the long lines of students all over campus. Despite this everyone was so nice here and I loved everything about it. Eventually I realized that it was unlikely I could get a quality education in a place as isolated as home. I was about to accept that South Carolina was a small but urbanized state. About this time, I applied for an internship with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. I got an internship and was housed at Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve. Looking at a map I assumed Congaree was way too close to Columbia to be any kind of isolated. As a Clemson student I had adopted the perception that Columbia is the equivalent of Los Angeles or New York City. Granted I can’t really speak to Los Angeles or New York. As it turns out an hour outside of Columbia put me squarely in the middle of nowhere. I stayed on the end of a mile long dirt road. This was about as far off the 95 Corridor as one could get. Behind the house was one of those magnificent green rivers, and a crossed over several on my way to work each day.
Off the 95 corridor, in rural South Carolina it’s a lot different. There are very few people, and the people who do live here are generally not inclined to move at the accelerated pace of 95 traffic. You can get most places in the state without using interstate highways. It’s a break from the scurrying fast paced life in larger towns and highways.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.