By Alli Hill
There’s a seemingly infinite number of things to do in South Carolina, but the state parks here are among the most popular activities for a reason. The state’s perfect location near both coast and mountains means you’ll find a variety of activities within the parks to suit every type of adventure. Among the most beautiful? The scenic Cheraw State Park. With its ample wildlife viewing opportunities, trails to explore, and opportunity for water activities, you’ll never want to leave. Here’s how to make the most out of Cheraw.
Start with a trip to Cheraw State Park, one of the top state parks in South Carolina thanks to its abundance of trails and recreational activities, including bird watching, geocaching, and pedal boat rentals. Located in the Midlands, Cheraw State Park is situated in an advantageous mix of pine forests and wetlands, complete with a lake for fishing, swimming, boating, and other watersports. Best of all, admission to this state park is completely free.
There are a few hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in the park to suit every preference. The most popular is the half-mile out-and-back Boardwalk Trail that takes you over the lake to the Lake Juniper Dam. Along the way, you may spot the area’s prized waterfowl, bald eagles, five-lined skinks, painted and yellow-bellied turtles, or water snakes, as well as the endangered pine barrens tree frog. It’s an easy hike that’s suitable for all skill levels and ages, and offers plenty to see during your short trek.
The Cheraw Nature and Turkey Oak Trails lead to one of the most scenic areas in the park—the cypress swamp. This easy-rated system of loops takes you through beautiful forested areas, showing you wildlife such as deer, snakes, lizards, and perhaps the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. Once you reach the spur, continue on the Turkey Oak Trail that will take you to the swamp. Or, you can explore the area by canoe or kayak for a chance to get a closer look.
The park offers a few types of accommodations for those looking to get more from their visit. They feature pull-through sites for RVs, tent camping, boat-in camping at the landing, and primitive campsites for large groups. If you prefer not to sacrifice most of your modern conveniences, you can book a stay in one of their cabins.
While you’re in the area, take advantage of all that charming Cheraw has to offer. Their Historic Cheraw Cell Phone Tour takes you to 25 different historic sites in the town, at your convenience. You’ll play a short video on your cell phone at each stop to learn more about it. Cheraw’s rich history stemming from the Civil War is a mainstay on this tour.
Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie was born and raised in Cheraw, and you can visit the site of his childhood home. Though the structure is no longer standing, the site holds its significance to the community. In its place is a park dedicated to the man who brought beloved jazz music to so many ears. The park is also within walking distance to other places that played a role in Gillespie’s life.
Cheraw’s fish hatchery raises and distributes over two million fish every year, making it a vital piece to the area’s economy and ecosystem. You can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it at one of their tables and explore the hatchery up close and personal. You will need to schedule a tour ahead of time, but admission to the fish hatchery is free.
If you’re looking to taste some local flavor, pull up a seat at River’s Edge. There’s something on the menu to suit every appetite, including a salad bar, soups and sandwiches, burgers, steaks, chicken, and a whole heaping helping of baked goods. Just make sure you save room for dessert—indulgence is a must!