About a thousand years ago, I was a lifeguard at Lee State Park
. I would drive every morning from Florence
to this small state park off Interstate 20 in Lee County
. There were just four lifeguards, but most days we outnumbered the swimmers so the park ranger put us to work raking pine straw and sprucing up the public areas of the park.
Even then, the park was used more by snowbirds and other retirees traveling in RVs than by local folks looking to cool off at the local swimming hole.
The park, like so many in South Carolina, was built in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. It was designed to give folks living near Lynches River a recreational outlet.
One unique feature was created when the park’s builders tapped into the pressurized aquifers deep under ground. That pressure pushes water up to the surface through wells that flow constantly. The water is clear and cold, year-round, and feeds the small pond that used to be the swimming area. That cool water was a blessing to the handful of swimmers (and lifeguards) in the summer of 1985 when there was little rain and plenty of heat.
The park no longer has a swimming area, but visitors can still stroll around the little pond to the wellhead and dip in a hand or foot or some sort of cloth to cool off.
Lee State Park also is home to hardwood forest wetlands that the state is famous for (and that the “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion used as hideout and shortcuts to much success during the Revolutionary War). More than 700 acres of the park’s lands are part of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Wetland Reserve Program.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking, fishing in the Lynches River (a State Scenic River) or just sit and watch the birds and other wildlife.
There are camp sites with water and electrical hookups, a bathroom building that includes hot water for showers and the park has a dump station for RVs.
Some campsites can accommodate RVs up to 36 feet long and about two dozen sites are designated for campers with horses. Campsites are about $20 a night. There also is a primitive area that is great for group camping at about $1 per person for 10 to 100 people.
Admission to the park is free and it is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during Daylight Saving Time and closes at 5 p.m. in winter.