This image of a waterfall nestled in the cultivated woods of Poinsett State Park is my entry for Frank Jansen Photography’s Tuesday Photo Challenge-Woods.
According to archaeologists, people have lived in the “high hills” area of South Carolina for at least 10,000 years. The landmasses, water features, flora and fauna preserved in our State Parks are mere inkling of how the country looked for centuries.
Poinsett State Park in Sumter County, SC exists in an area called “the mountains of the Midlands.” More than 11 miles of hiking trails traverse a mixed terrain that includes 100ft bluffs and black water swampland, where you’ll find a blend of Upstate mountain laurel shrubs, Lowcountry Spanish moss draped over hardwoods and tall stands of Southern yellow pines. You may encounter red-tailed hawk, deer, snakes, turtles and possibly an American alligator.
Evidence shows Native Americans from the Santee, Wateree and Catawba tribes hunted in these woods. In 1753, Matthew Singleton petitioned South Carolina for 300 acres with the understanding he would improve the property by clearing fields, building houses and mills. Remnants of the mill still exist.
It’s believed someone named Levi built a dam to create a pond on Shank’s Creek in order to cultivate rice. The 10-acre lake in the park is named “Old Levi Mill Pond” in his memory.
During the 1800s, the area around the property became known as the “Capital of the Lumber Industry” in South Carolina. According to the SC Forestry Commission, such was the production that by the end of World War I, most of SC’s virgin timber was gone.
In 1934, Sumter County purchased 1,000 acres, dedicating it to the public as a recreation and game refuge. Subsequently, the County donated the land to the State of South Carolina.
In an effort to address the unemployment of the Great Depression, and conserve timber resources, President Franklin D. Roosevelt conceived a “New Deal” program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was responsible for the construction of many state and national parks, including 17 State Parks in South Carolina. The CCC employed young men and World War I veterans. The men learned a wide array of skills in addition to their wages.
From 1934 to 1938 the CCC built recreational and support facilities and trails in this Park. Company 421, one of three CCC companies who helped with construction, named the park after the South Carolina congressman, physician and amateur botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was also an envoy to Mexico from 1822-23. (That’s where he found the red plant known in Mexico as the Christmas Eve flower. Due to his promotion of the plant in the US, it became known as the poinsettia.)
The CCC companies used coquina, a local rock made of ancient sand and shells to build a 75ft. spillway and the waterfall (pictured above). A number of the buildings constructed by the CCC are still in use today, including the ranger station.