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New Tall Pines WMA in Mountain Area

If you ever wish that South Carolina would expand their public lands program, then there is cause for a little celebration. Using a broad base of funding support, in the name of habitat conservation, the state is adding 1,757-acres of untamed mountain area for public hunting, fishing, hiking, and paddling. This tract of land is now called Tall Pines Wildlife Management Area and it borders a mile of the South Saluda River. A gravel parking lot next to a gorgeous mountain lake with clear green water is the gateway to explore the many trails at Tall Pines.
I found the Tall Pines WMA by traveling eight miles north of Travelers Rest in Greenville County. The last town before Tall Pines is called Cleveland, South Carolina. Cleveland is home to weekend activity at Burly Bill’s BBQ when bikers cruising the winding mountain roads stop for some sustenance. Before turning onto Moody Bridge Road, you cross the South Saluda River, and I could see anglers fishing for mountain trout in this picturesque stream. The rest of the route to Tall Pines and the property itself are draped in the natural beauty of the foothills.
The purchase price for Tall Pines came to about four million dollars, with S.C. Conservation Bank chipping in three million dollars to really make this acquisition possible. The SCDNR Heritage Land Trust Fund and the SCDNR Timber Management Account produced the other funding. Doug Harper is the chairman of S.C. Conservation Bank. “Tall Pines is another of the many significant investments over the years conserving our special places in South Carolina,” said Harper. To learn more visit www.sccbank.sc.gov on the Internet.
My visit to Tall Pines included seeing lots of wildlife, like the wild turkey hen that crossed the road right before arriving at the parking area where a butterfly was fluttering. An island in the middle of the lake is home to what looks like an old chimney or lighthouse. The lake is surrounded on all sides by mountain ridges, complete with the tall trees that represent an intact ecosystem and create a beautiful vista.
Fish could be seen swimming along the banks of the lake, with turtles out sunning on toppled logs, and even a pair of Canadian geese looked like they were right at home. The abandoned wood duck boxes at Tall Pines could easily be replaced or refurbished to provide excellent nesting habitat for summer ducks. The potential for songbirds to utilize this property during spring and summer should bring birdwatchers here in droves, not to mention the tranquility that can be found at Tall Pines.
Jason Johnson is S.C. State Director for The Conservation Fund. “This property has a little of everything including wetlands, beautiful ponds with nearly 600-feet in elevation change from the South Saluda River to the top of Little Mountain,” said Johnson. The Conservation Fund works in all 50 states and partnered with SCDNR regarding Tall Pines to protect this mountain habitat because of its proximity to other protected areas with public access in the area like the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Jones Gap State Park.
While hiking around Tall Pines reveals I came across an old cement structure that had long been abandoned next to a rolling brook. Evidence of mountain residents from long ago make the unknown history at Tall Pines more intriguing, while new water flow pipes exiting the lake into the stream show the renewed commitment to the land. Native plants are all around the streamside area, and some have thorns while others have delicate flowers. A few acres of open ground fields at Tall Pines should provide early successional fallow field habitat that is utilized by big game species.
Pretty pine cones from towering pine trees are all over the ground, but a whole suite of hardwood trees are present at Tall Pines too. In some areas, the trails are established, but in other areas, they are still rough and uncut, so come prepared with the supplies needed for an excursion into a wilderness area. When leaving Tall Pines WMA if you travel north the road quickly turns into steep terrain with switchback roads that cross the mountains into North Carolina.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com