This Section of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail System Has Amazing Views and Wildlife!

The Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail travels 21 miles across the Upstate, and in order to help families plan their excursions on the SRT we are offering this series on the different sections of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail. The Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail overview is a great place to start.  Then, in this article local mom Liene, gives more detail on the Lake Conestee Nature Park section of the Trail. Please also visit our Lake Conestee Nature Park overview for more information on what else this fantastic park has to offer.

Looking for a place to go bike riding this spring? One of my family’s favorite sections of the trail system is the south end within Lake Conestee Nature Park. With a few road crossings, beautiful scenery, ample parking, and plenty of interesting stopping points, your family is guaranteed a stress-free outing.

Of the 21 miles of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail System, 2 are within the main section of Conestee, while another 2 miles connect to the north portion of the park and to Parkins Mill and Mauldin Road, making for an 8-mile round trip that can easily be shortened as needed.

Highlights of the Lake Conestee Nature Park Section of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail:

  • Perfect for bikes. (Note: signs advise cyclists to walk their bicycles for the portions of the trail utilizing boardwalks).
  • Features calming scenery and interesting stopping points in a natural setting.
  • With a total of 8 miles of trail (round trip), the route is easily customized for your family.
  • Utilizes public roads for a short section between the north and main units of Lake Conestee Nature Park.

Start at Historic Conestee Mill

The adventure starts at Historic Conestee Mill ( 1 Spanco Drive, Conestee). While the Conestee section is not connected to the main trunk of trail (that winds its way north along the Reedy River all the way to Travelers Rest), the trailhead at the historic Conestee Mill serves as a southern terminus for the trail.

The History of Conestee Mill

There has been a mill on the Reedy River at this spot since as far back as the 1790s, but it was small scale until the 1830s when Vardy McBee purchased almost 300 acres in the region and built a much larger dam. Over the years ownership changed hands, the dam was rebuilt, and it is thought that material for Confederate Army uniforms was manufactured at the mill during the Civil War.

In 1909 Reedy River Manufacturing was renamed Conestee Mill, after the Cherokee word for “running waters.”  The mill ceased production in the early 1970s and foreclosed in 1978.

The addition of the historic structure to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 was possibly key to the sale of the property earlier this year. Recently a redevelopment plan was announced; in addition to 60,000 square feet of residences, the new owners have proposed eateries and commercial venues in the five outbuildings on the property.

Spot birds and animals from one of the several observation decks

There is a free parking lot for trail access off Spanco Drive, and the first tenth of a mile of trail winds away from the kiosk around the South Bay (named for the location in relation to Reedy River).

Right across from the intersection with the Rusty Link connector (access at South Pine Circle off Conestee Rd.) is the South Bay Observation Deck. This is a good spot to look for great blue herons and other waterfowl.

The next observation deck (overlooking Crescent Slough) has given us glimpses of muskrats, snakes and a multitude of birds. This relatively short stretch of trail sees an abundance of wildflowers in the spring, and the kiddos are almost guaranteed to spot a few turtles sunning themselves on logs at the edge of the lake.

Note that portions of the trail utilize boardwalks; signs advise cyclists to walk their bicycles on these sections.

Once the trail turns west a boardwalk goes off to the north, to River Otter Way and Froggy Bottom Link on Sparkleberry Island. Heron Spur, the small boardwalk to the West Bay observation deck, is just a short distance from this point and definitely worth the detour. This is the best viewing spot for the great blue heron rookery, and American green tree frogs, fish & turtles can usually be seen from the viewing deck.

The Sparkleberry Connector Connects the Swamp Rabbit Trail with Conestee Park

Once back on the Swamp Rabbit Trail you’ll come to a scenic viewpoint on the opposite side of West Bay, and a short distance later is the intersection with Flat Tail Trail (connects to the parking lot at the Belmont Fire Department). At this point, the SRT makes a wide loop around Marrow Bone Creek, and connects to the Stone House parking lot, Henderson Farm, and various observation points with a series of connector trails and boardwalks.

These trails mostly aren’t bicycle-friendly (with the exception of the Stone House Spur), but do make for awesome hiking adventures.

Approaching the two-mile mark you’ll find the entrance to the Sparkleberry Connector which just opened a little more than a year ago. The ¾ mile paved trail connects the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Conestee Park (Greenville County Recreation), popular for its dog park, playground, ball parks and restroom facilities.

Make sure to check out the bridge over the Reedy River; an enormous black rat snake calls the large tree hanging over the river its home, and on sunny days it can often be seen sunning itself on the branches.

Head North to Breazeale Farm

To reach the north section of Lake Conestee Nature Park follow Chatham Drive to Churchill Circle, and re-enter the park at the Churchill Trailhead.

The next 0.6 miles through the Breazeale Farm portion of the park will pass both ends of Tree Frog Trail.  This trail utilizes a portion of the SRT to form a 1-mile loop.

The Breazeale Farm parcel was historically a cotton farm before being converted to a dairy farm and was home to dairy cattle as late as the 1960s.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail emerges at Brushy Creek south of ReWa’s Mauldin Road Wastewater Treatment Plant, from where it crosses the river once more before ending just short of Interstate 85 on Parkins Mill Road. The gap from Lake Conestee Nature Park to where the trail picks back up again at Greenville Technical College is only two miles. 

Although long-term plans hope to connect the two sections, funds are currently being diverted to the addition of a connector that will link the SRT in Cleveland Park to ICAR down Laurens Road.

If you choose to continue, please keep in mind that the 2-mile suggested route to Greenville Tech sees some pretty intense traffic. Check out our KAG guide to the northern section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail helpful!

Once you’ve returned to Conestee Mill make sure to rest and refuel at one of the picnic tables situated overlooking the South Bay. Pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the overlooks, remember your water bottles & sunscreen, and enjoy your time on the trail.

Whether you choose to cycle or to hike, whether you complete the entire 8-mile southern portion of the trail or the 4 miles within the main portion of the park; this beautiful, wild section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail will have you itching to continue north all the way to Travelers Rest!

Maps

For a map of Conestee Nature Park, click here.

For more on the Conestee section of the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, parking, overlooks and all other trails, please click here.

This article was originally published on Femme au foyer.

Has your family explored the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail at Lake Conestee Nature Park?

Liene
About the Author
Mother of four young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, http://FemmeauFoyer2011.blogspot.com.

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