It was the summer of 1935 — the middle of the Great Depression — when a group of young men from the Civilian Conservation Corps pitched their tents in the South Carolina sandhills to begin building Lee State Park
Seventy-five years later, visitors are still enjoying this 2,800-acre park on the brown-water Lynches River.
A favorite with anglers, kayakers and canoers, the park also offers equestrian camping, a horse stable, show ring and seven miles of wooded bridle trails.
But what I wanted to see on a recent trip to the park were the famed artesian wells that had been excavated by those hardworking “CCC boys.” Four of the original six wells are still gushing away.
“The water is a constant 65 degrees,” said Interpretive Ranger Laura Kirk, who stopped to chat while riding through the park on her mountain bike. “In the summer, it feels cold. But this time of year, you’ll think it’s warm.”
Of course, I had to see for myself. Sure enough, with the air temp hovering at 55, the spring water felt downright tepid.
The easiest wells to access are on the one-mile Floodplain Trail. From the park office lot, walk toward the pond and picnic tables to the trail kiosk. Follow the path over a footbridge — another CCC-constructed project. You’ll see two of the springs to your left.
After finishing the short loop trail, I headed to the Lynches River, which can be accessed from the park’s main Loop Road. The river bank slopes gently in several spots, making it easy to launch a kayak or canoe.
The section of the Lynches that winds through the park is part of a 54-mile stretch of the waterway that has been designated a state scenic river. Lined with hardwoods draped in Spanish moss, the river offers a peaceful setting to paddle season after glorious season.
Fishing is equally popular on the Lynches. Although river access is limited in the park, several boat ramps are located nearby. The closest is four miles north at the U.S. 15 bridge. You also can cast a line from the banks for sunfish, redbreast, catfish and bass.
When you visit the park, be sure to check out the Environmental Education Center, featuring a wetland ecology lab and exhibit gallery. Among the artifacts on display are newspapers dating back to the 1930s when the park was built.
Lee State Park also offers 23 equestrian campsites and 25 sites designated for tents and RVs up to 36 feet long. Campsites rent for $12 to $13 a night.
for more information on the park and its facilities, or call (803) 428-5307.