River Hike

John Grego, 10/2009

During Fall Break weekend, I hiked to the river starting from the Oakridge Trail. As the trail crossed from an unnamed slough to Frenchman's Pond, I headed south off-trail. I first explored Frenchman's Pond, which was dry, and took photos of Cardinal flower and Nodding (or Swamp) Ladies' Tresses. On years when the swamp is dry, both these wildflowers are sprinkled throughout tupelo/cypress sloughs. After crossing Frenchman's Gut, I looked for the ford, and quickly found it, then recrossed the gut so I could take pictures of the large persimmon tree there. John Cely feels this tree is a rival of the former national co-champion persimmon on the Kingsnake Trail.

The jeep trail on the old Sox-Goff tract is still obvious. There was a lot of feral hog sign on the trail, and I soon ran into a pair of hogs that I re-encountered two or three more times as I pushed them down the trail. Those were the only hogs I saw all day, though I ran into white-tailed deer several times. The jeep trail eventually disappears into a maze of overgrown food plots and fields. I wouldn't mind leading a hike to the river, but I need to find a much better way of navigating the last part of the hike.

I did eventually reach the river, and skirted the eastern edge of the long field until I reached the large sandbar on the Congaree. The sandbar was dry, and the head of the bar had an attractive coarse gravel beach that made a good picnic spot. I headed back north on the opposite side of the long field, but lost my Cely map at some point along the way. At this point, I assumed I wouldn't find an easy way back. I worked my way west of the overgrown fields into old-growth forest, and paused to admire a substantial Laurel Oak--at that point, I decided to cut due east, and found the old jeep trail within 50 yards of the Laurel Oak. The rest of the trip was routine, though I made it longer than needed by continuing to follow the Oakridge Trail to the west rather than re-tracing my steps to the east.

Though I didn't see as many soaring birds at the river as I hoped, there were enough migrants, and enough changes in habitat, that I recorded 51 species for the day.

Birding List

  • Wood Duck 4
  • Wild Turkey 1
  • Anhinga 2
  • Great Blue Heron 1
  • Wood Stork 1
  • Black Vulture 6
  • Turkey Vulture 6
  • Red-shouldered Hawk 2
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo 4
  • Barred Owl 8
  • Chimney Swift 5
  • Belted Kingfisher 2
  • Red-headed Woodpecker 3
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker 35
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 5
  • Downy Woodpecker 8
  • Northern Flicker 56
  • Pileated Woodpecker 14
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
  • Acadian Flycatcher 1
  • Eastern Phoebe 5
  • White-eyed Vireo 5
  • Philadelphia Vireo 1
  • Blue Jay 3
  • American Crow 5
  • Carolina Chickadee 26
  • Tufted Titmouse 30
  • White-breasted Nuthatch 9
  • Brown-headed Nuthatch 3
  • Carolina Wren 33
  • Veery 1
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush 2
  • Wood Thrush 8
  • Gray Catbird 4
  • Brown Thrasher 13
  • Northern Parula 11
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler 2
  • Black-throated Green Warbler 1
  • Pine Warbler 2
  • Black-and-white Warbler 5
  • American Redstart 7
  • Worm-eating Warbler 1
  • Ovenbird 1
  • Scarlet Tanager 1
  • Eastern Towhee 1
  • Northern Cardinal 29
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak 4
  • Indigo Bunting 5
  • Red-winged Blackbird 10
  • Common Grackle 2

Cardinal Flower in Frenchman's Pond

A large persimmon at the ford across Frenchman's Gut

One of a pair of rooting feral hogs

A Black Rat Snake found near the river

The gravel beach at the north end of the large sandbar

One of several deer I saw on the hike

A feral hog lower jaw with an impressive set of tusks

Lacy leaves against the sky

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Last modified: Jan 12, 2010 by Edward Kujawski (focs@mindspring.com)
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