Stepping Back in Natural Time at the Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve
by Jason Greer
Travelers Rest and Northern Greenville are changing and modernizing rapidly, but there are a few places to immerse yourself in the land before machines came. Imagine if you had the opportunity to travel back a hundred years or more, and see this land before the buzz of vehicles. While our mountains are an amazing draw, as they rise a thousand feet above us, our rolling foothills hold unique wonders as well.
One of the few places left to see what our rolling foothills were like before farms and homes came is the Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve, just a few miles northwest of the center of Travelers Rest. Set aside in perpetuity over 30 years ago and resting near horse farms and overlooked by a quiet monastery, this tract preserves rare, endangered plants, and a glimpse of the meadows and forest borders that were so common around here generations ago.
This SC Department of Natural Resources managed tract of about a 180 acres contains a sloping meadow, pine and hardwood trees, a small pond and wetland. This land is very healthy. Songbirds like cardinals, indigo buntings and bluebirds reside here. Several rare plant species thrive here, including the preserve’s namesake, the bunched arrowhead. In fact, those that study such things say that this preserve has the largest remaining tract of this plant that was used by natives as a food source hundreds of years ago.
The Bunched Arrowhead blooms with foot-high, delicate white flowers in late spring in large numbers near the preserve’s pond and wet land. But the preserve itself has natural delights the whole year.
On a recent walk on a warm winter’s day, this preserve was pulsating with the life that comes in the colder months. This writer counted several varieties of birds in sizable numbers, feeding on the remains of autumn’s natural harvest. The evidence of activity from small mammals on the forest border ground shows healthy activity. The sloping meadow grasses waved in the breeze, swaying back and forth.
At the entrance to the preserve is a small parking lot, signage about the land and the beginning and end of a 1.25 mile loop trail around the property. If you are looking for an easy trail, not as strenuous as the nearby mountains, and friendly to dogs on a leash and walkers of all ages, this trail would be hard to beat in our area. Beginning at the entrance sign, taking the left loop, the trail winds down the slope, and after a couple hundred yards enters the edge of the forest. Along the way, you can see bird houses placed on poles. This preserve is frequently studied by nearby university biology students for its unique habitats. Eventually the trail comes to the pond and wetland where the bunched arrowhead plants reside. Even in their dormant status, the extent of their growth is clear. Along the way, rare types of ferns and other wildflowers and small shrubs line the path.
Coming back around to the beginning of the trail, and really back to the 21st century, you can come away with a new appreciation for the unique features of our rolling foothills, and grateful that a small slice has been preserved for future generations.
From U.S. Highway 25, travel approx. one mile east on Tigerville Road and turn left onto Shelton Road. Follow Shelton Road for approximately 1 mile and turn right on McCauley Road. The Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve parking area will be about 1/2 mile down the road on the right.
Photos by Jason Greer and Hannah Wickline as noted