2007-12-28 / Beauty in the Backyard

Nature's Gym Chester State Park

By Benjamin Higginsb2@ya Hhoigo.gcionms

Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson There are picnic tables along the lake at Chester Tate Park so visitors can take a moment to rest and look at the scenery. Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson There are picnic tables along the lake at Chester Tate Park so visitors can take a moment to rest and look at the scenery. Set against the backdrop of a thick pine forest, Chester State Park is the ideal setting for a family picnic or an excellent opportunity to escape from the challenges of daily life. Cooler temperatures don't diminish Chester's beauty.

Located directly between Columbia and Charlotte just off Interstate 77, Chester State Park is a travel destination that can truly be enjoyed anytime of the year.

The park, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is only 523 acres, but makes up in beauty what it lacks in size.

Chief among Chester's attractions is a two- mile nature trail in the center of the park. The nature trail has benefited from South Carolina's mild winter, and visitors will find some green plants and pink flowers along the path.

Tall pines make the forest shady no matter what time of day. These plants sharply contrast with the fallen and dying trees found throughout trail, reflecting the cycle of death and renewal in the forest landscape.

Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson Vibrant leaves stand out among the foliage. Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson Vibrant leaves stand out among the foliage. There are many varieties of birds and perhaps even a deer, and foxes have also been seen on the trail. Most animals strive to avoid human contact and will not bother humans if left alone. As with any state park, visitors can consult park rangers with any questions. The trail is light to moderate difficulty. There are steep hills within the path's first and last quarter- mile sections.

Jon boats can be rented from the park's boat dock for $12 a day or $2.50 an hour. Private boats may also be used to explore Chester's serene 160- acre lake.

Accomplished anglers and novice fishermen alike try to catch bass, bream, catfish and crappie with a valid South Carolina fishing license. A community build- ing and picnic shelters are available for family or business gatherings and can be reserved through the park. Interpretative signs explain the important role the Civilian Conservation Corps played in the creation of Chester and other South Carolina state parks.

Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson Walkers have reached the end of the trail when they come to the dam. Photo by Elizabeth Bailey Johnson Walkers have reached the end of the trail when they come to the dam. Chester's lakefront picnic areas are excellent locations for a quiet afternoon at the park. Grassy areas nearby afford numerous opportunities for games along the bank. Those looking to practice their skills with a bow and arrow will enjoy Chester's archery range. A playground is also available just across from the community building.

Admission to Chester State Park is $2 for adults and $1.25 for seniors. Children 15 or under are free.

Visit www.southcarolinaparks. com or call 385- 2680 for more information.

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