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Harbison Forest park a daily family escape and guaranteed outdoor fun (almost free things to do)

Posted By shoutabout,Date: 04.26.2008

Looking for a nice, relaxing, cheap and outdoor fun family weekend getaway? Columbia residents are spoiled with a 2000 acres “playground” at the Harbison State Forest park only 9 miles from downtown. The Harbison park is one of the largest public green spaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States. 16 miles of roads and trails weave through pine and hardwood forest crossing streams and descending through leafy glades to the Broad River.

The History
Harbison Forest soil once formed one of the first ocean ridges on the coastal plain. Thousands of years ago Catawba and Cherokee tribes traversed these woodlands to reach the Broad River. European settlers followed and formed the Dutch Fork farming community. Is hard to believe this entire area was covered with cotton up until early 1900’s!

Things to Enjoy at the Harbison State Forest park
You have 12 miles of very well-marked and maintained trails for walking (your dog as well), jogging, hiking, bicycling that range from easy to difficult. There is also a canoe landing with access for kayaks and canoes as a put in or take out from the river. Best picnic area is at the pine Gazebo that offers restrooms, outdoor grills and electric outlets From here you can also embark on the self-guided educational Discovery Trail where kids can learn about forestry, natural resources and conservation programs.(electricity is provided through a photo-voltaic solar system);

Tips to know before you go
1. If you live in Columbia and like to mountain bike get the $25 annual pass, it will pay for itself after 5 visits.

2. You can drive your car through most of the park and start on different biking and hiking trails. If this is your first visit start at the Education Center. You can ask get tips from the park rangers about each trail, use the very clean rest-rooms, fill up with water, get a very handy trail map and other park brochures.

From here you can hike Discovery to the Gazebo or the Learning trail which loops around the center where you can admire the picturesque Vernal pond; also from the Education Center you can start your biking adventure on the versatile Firebreak Trail.

3. Keep kids entertained and let them be explorers for a day on the Stewardship Trail Forester’s Walk. There is “detective” like guide at the trail entrance covering 26 noteworthy stops along the trail. The whole family can learn about uneven aged forest management, seed trees, artificial regeneration, perennial creeks, natural tree competition, bottomland hardwoods, and how to best spot wildlife. Guess the age of trees and how each disappeared, talk “forestry” (like go 2 chains) and see traces of historic farms.
Did you know that insects like the southern pine and black turpentine beetle and diseases kill more trees a year in South Carolina than wildfires? How about seeing a bike on tree? Well check it out for yourself.

4. Kayaks and canoe enthusiasts need to complete a float plan at the Education Center to get access to the landing; there is a gate at the Stewardship Trail entrance blocking the road leading to the boat landing; most likely a ranger will need to let you in (unless you rather prefer to back-carry your gear the remaining 1 mile to the river); there is no extra fee for using the river.

5. There are 3 restrooms in the park all functioning, however only the one at the Education Center has drinking water available.

Where
Harbison State Forest
5500 Broad River Road, Columbia, SC 29212
Info and reservations (803) 896-8890

Directions: From I-20 take the Broad River exit and continue on 176 West towards Irmo. Drive pass SLED, Juvenile Correction Center and the Police Offices Hall of Fame. The park entrance will be on your right.

Admission tickets: Adult $2, SC Seniors $1.25, under 15 years old is free. Biking daily permit is $5 and includes access to the park.

Join in the fun at Harbison State Forest park! You can also bring your family to the quiet easy going and always relaxing Sesquicentennial Park

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