Time to get packing for everyone’s favorite rite of autumn — the family road trip. Rather than shoot straight up to the mountains on a mind-numbing interstate, take the back roads and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
The Savannah River National Scenic Byway
is the quintessential country drive through small southern towns and rolling farmland. Traveling alongside the namesake Savannah River, the road winds past three major lakes and the densely wooded Sumter National Forest
The 110-mile byway begins on S.C. 28 at the South Carolina-Georgia border about nine miles north of Augusta. This first section passes through Sumter National Forest, offering mile after mile of wooded terrain ablaze in fall colors.
Several state parks — Hamilton Branch
, Baker Creek
and Hickory Knob
— are easily accessible should you want to take a break and stretch your legs or have a picnic lunch. You’ll also pass through McCormick and Willington, charming small towns with lots of fun restaurants and shops.
For the first third of the road trip, you’ll be driving alongside Lake Thurmond. At about the 30-mile mark, you’ll hit Lake Russell, another Savannah River-fed reservoir. Calhoun Falls State Park
offers access to this pretty lake.
At this juncture, I encourage you to veer off the scenic byway and drive a short distance to historic Abbeville
, a beautiful little town settled in 1758 by a group of French Huguenots. A hotbed of activity during the Civil War, it claims the title of “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy”. The first reading of the secession papers took place here. It’s also where President Jefferson Davis and his war council disbanded the Confederate armies.
Visitors also enjoy browsing through Abbeville’s many antique shops. While in town, be sure to check out the restored opera house, founded at the turn-of-the-century as a stopover for “road companies” traveling from NYC to Atlanta.
The final section of the scenic highway passes along Lake Hartwell and Sadlers Creek State Park
. I’ll tell you more about this lovely park in an upcoming blog.
At the southern end of Oconee County, the Savannah River National Scenic Byway ends and the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway begins. Along both of these picturesque routes are a large number of campgrounds, so you can take your time, stop often and enjoy the view out your car window.