By Lauren Kirby, Southern Basin Intern

Forty-Acre Rock Heritage Preserve in Kershaw, SC, is one of the most diverse, protected area in our basin yet seems to be a largely unknown hidden gem.

What is a “Heritage Preserve”?
Heritage Preserves are properties acquired by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) for the primary purpose of protecting habitat for rare and endangered species. The preserve acts as a place to visit for a half-day hike, even boasts game hunting opportunities, but also used for scientific research.

What You’ll See
My first visit to Forty-Acre Rock was with my biology class at University of South Carolina-Lancaster. One of first notable points on the site include the fourteen-acre granite outcrop that feels like the top of a mountain but looks like the surface of the moon overlooking the Sandhills. The slippery rock top acts as a great study of primary succession where vernal pools on the rock’s surface slowly fades into Resurrection Ferns and stunted Eastern Red Cedars. There is also the quaint Cambridge waterfall marking the transition from pine forest to hardwood forest. If you don’t mind a moderate moss-covered climb along the side of the falls, you’ll find a small cave.

However, the secluded pond filled with lily pads and  high, aquatic grasses that hide species such as herons and beavers is my favorite part of the preserve. The beaver pond requires hiking the beautiful 1.5-mile trail that hugs Flat Creek, showing off a beautiful waterslide, rich wildlife, wildflowers and the large boulders of the area.  

The History
As it was considered a natural resource, this granite was mined by early residents for stone for housing foundations, chimneys and millstones. The evidence of past residents’ tools is still visible today giving visitors a glimpse of past mining practices compared to modern day methods done by corporations such as the nearby Haile Gold Mine. In 1984, Lancaster real estate broker Lindsay Pettus, and Director of the nonprofit preservation society S.C.’s Nature Conservancy Brusi Alexander, began persuading landowners to sell their “piece of the rock” to the Nature Conservancy to build the preserve. Since 1992, The Katawba Valley Land Trust, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of natural and cultural resources in the Catawba River Valley of South Carolina, has been in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and state agencies to protect over 2,500 acres at the Forty-Acre Rock Heritage Site conducting semi-annual cleanups.  

Getting There
The preserve’s address is: 2207 Conservancy Rd, Kershaw, SC 29067. There are two main parking lots, the upper parking area on Conservancy Road off Highway 601 being the most common entrance to the preserve. This upper parking lot offers the shortest hiking distance (less than half a mile) to the rock formations.