The Savannah Valley Railroad Trail is a “linear” park that results when unused railroad trails are repurposed into hiking and biking trails. Our trail is “rustic,” meaning it is composed of densely packed soil with a grassy surface. Its mild grades are most suitable for walking and fat-tire biking. When completed, it will cover nearly 20 miles in McCormick County, South Carolina.
Enterprising civilians began to realize the astounding potential unused railroad beds represented in the late 1970s when railroad service declined sharply. Repurposing these railroad beds into hiking and biking trails — when much of the construction labor and expense had been taken care of decades ago — quickly resulted in a “rails to trails” movement all across America.
Highlights of the trail:
Naturally scenic — thanks to the wildlife, vegetation, and topography of the land. Threading through much forested land, the tree canopy provides pleasant shade to 90% of the trail. Views of the Savannah River provide a pleasing change of scenery.
Whistle posts — are more than 120 years old; their embossed codes told train engineers what warnings to blow and when.
Mile markers —are posted every 0.5 miles
Historical sites — Pettigrew Plantation site and Springhouse, Badwell Cemetery, Huguenot Worship Site monument, 125-year-old train trestle; various additional sites are marked with posts and/or placards.
· Horses and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail.
· Wear bright colors from October 1 through January 1. Hunters are not permitted to hunt from the trail but do access it at various points to reach their destinations.
Where is the trail?
McCormick County is located on the western border of South Carolina, just north of Augusta, Ga. The Hugh C. Brown Sr. Trailhead and kiosk/map is located on Barksdale Ferry Road, northwest of the town of McCormick. This portion of the original railroad trail connected Anderson and McCormick.
1870s – Charleston & Western Carolina Railroad laid 58 miles of track from Anderson to McCormick, using a basic plan that Savannah Valley Railroad (hence our name) had first chartered in 1856.
1896-1940s – About 360 miles of track were gradually added as railroad usage thrived throughout western South Carolina.
1952 – The Great Depression, effects of the boll weevil, and increasing popularity of automobiles influenced the decline of passenger service. By 1955, the railroad was used for freight service only.
1978 – Rail service was discontinued from Anderson to McCormick. A nationwide movement developed to convert unused railroad beds for hiking and biking trails. The South Carolina Department of Commerce acquired the railroad right of way in 1983.
1986, 1995, 2000, and 2006 – Various feasibility studies regarding a local rails-to-trails effort were done in McCormick County.
2006 – Joining Ninety Six District Resource Conservation and Development Council, Brad Allen, Elyse Benson, Frank Clayton (deceased), Bernie Hamby, Sara Juengst, Dan Juengst (deceased), Fred Muller, Wendy Linaberry, Don Norton, George Selfridge, Robert Stockton, Ken Tinsley and Wallace Wood took steps to organize a steering committee to develop the trail.
2008 – Clearing of the first portion of the trail was initiated by enthusiastic volunteers.
2010 – The 2.2-mile trail from Barksdale Ferry Road to Cemetery Road was opened to the public. This segment included a designated parking area on Barksdale Ferry Road. Various signage was installed.
2012 – The Hugh C. Brown Sr. Trailhead, with kiosk and map, was erected on Barksdale Ferry Road. The Brown Family graciously shares their property for parking close to the trail entrance. Savannah Valley Trails Inc. and a governing board of directors were established; plans to “deck” the railroad trestle at Mill Creek were formulated.
2013 – Ninety Six District Resource, Conservation and Development Council transferred the deed to the railway right of way from Route 28 to the northern boundary of McCormick County, to Savannah Valley Trails Inc.
2014 – SVT Inc. obtained 501c 3 status. S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism awarded a grant to enhance the railroad trestle that connected two segments of trail but also enabled safe use by hikers and bikers. This significant project was completed in October 2014.
Plans for Future Development
Phase I – Clear the trail from the north end of the railroad trestle to Willington
Phase II – Establish a trail head in Willington, in collaboration with Willington on the Way.
Phase III – Open the two-mile stretch from Barksdale Ferry Road, southeast to Route 28.
Phase IV – Clear the trail from the Willington Trail Head, north to McCormick County line.
Completing Phases I-IV will result in a linear park approximately 20 miles long. Only two other rails-to-trails projects in South Carolina are that long. (Note: With the development of Savannah Lakes Village, a two-mile portion of the original railroad trail was absorbed into the Huguenot Parkway in the late 1980s. The paved surface links the otherwise continuous trail).
Phase V – To link the to-be-completed Savannah Valley Railroad Trail to already established trails in Baker Creek and Hickory Knob State Parks.
Step by step, you can help!
Use our trail! Tell your friends and relatives how great it is!
Volunteer! You could join our Bush Hawgs — that’s our “elite”group that grooms and maintains the trail once a month. Serve on our board of directors. Share grant-writing skills, buy an official SVT T-shirt. And, hey, a simple donation is always welcome!
Attend our annual Savannah Valley Trail/ Frank Clayton Trail Event every October. This showcases our wonderful linear park and promotes this priceless county asset.
If any situation concerns you while you enjoy our trail, please report it (contact information follows).
You may contact 2014-15 Chairperson Allan Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vice Chairperson Butch Dieckhoner at email@example.com