South Carolina’s notorious summer heat and humidity couldn’t stop dozens of donors and members of the South Carolina State Park Service and The Nature Conservancy from coming out to Jones Gap State Park to celebrate a long awaited milestone.
On Friday, June 22, 2012, The Nature Conservancy officially transferred ownership of 300 acres of land in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area to the state park service.
The process of buying the property began more than two years ago with negotiations between landowners and The Nature Conservancy, and thanks to more than 400 donors $2 million was raised to help purchase the land from private landowners.
The new property adjoins 300 additional acres to the more than 11,000 that comprise the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, located between Jones Gap and Caesars Head state parks. Waterfalls, streams, large boulders and a mix of tree species make up the mature forest on the new land.
A group of donors and members of The Nature Conservancy were permitted to hike along the new property, guided by Park Interpreter Tim Lee, and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along. Tim guided us through the unmarked forest to Coleman Falls, arguably the most notable attraction located within the new acreage.
The falls, named after donor Lillian C. Darby’s parents, Jim and Jane Coleman, topples over slick mountain rocks, stretching 200 feet along the side of the mountain. No marked trails lead to the falls yet, so the hike was a special treat for those who helped contribute to the property.
Tim says it will be at least a couple of years before additional trails will be built to Coleman Falls, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t plenty to enjoy at Jones Gap. The park provides access to miles upon miles of winding, mountainous trails through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, two of which lead to Jones Gap Falls and Rainbow Falls.
The park offers a peacefulness not so easily found elsewhere in the state, and makes the perfect day trip if you’re looking to cool off this summer. Be advised, though, if you make the drive to Jones Gap in the summer you’ll want to get there early. Parking is limited, and you can expect delays to enter Jones Gap in the summer months once the park is at capacity.
By Laura Mueller, SC Park Insider