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Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve - South Carolina

Joe Kegley | E-Mail ; Will Stuart | E-Mail ; Steve Thomas | E-Mail - Updated 07-11-2010

Vernal Pool (with quillwort), Forty Acre Rock

Vernal Pool (with quillwort), Forty Acre Rock - Steve Thomas

Introduction

Solution Pools, Forty Acre Rock

Solution Pools, Forty Acre Rock
- Joe Kegley

Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve is a contradiction of natural beauty and disfigurement. The main attraction of the preserve is a large granite flatrock (actually just fourteen acres) which provides habitat to endemic species such as elf orpine and the endangered pool sprite. Botanists, naturalists, and wildflower devotees come to the rock to observe and study this distinct wildflower community. In addition, hiking the trails for the woodland variety of wildflowers is also popular during the spring.

On the other side of the spectrum, this same rock is used as a canvas for graffiti. Young people illegally congregate after-hours smashing beer bottles, building fires, and spray painting their desired message on the flatrock. Expect to see glass slivers from the broken bottles and graffiti should you decide to visit.

The area is known as one of the best birding and wildflower spots in South Carolina. Designated as a National Natural Landmark, the preserve (2,267 acres) includes pine forests, granite flatrocks, oak-hickory hardwood forests, successional habitat, a very large beaver pond, and hardwood floodplain forests along Flat Creek.

The preserve is located in Lancaster County, South Carolina and managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. During the 2009/2010 winter season the SC DNR conducted prescribed burns on upland sites dominated by pines where longleaf and shortleaf pine grasslands will be restored.

There are no bathroom or picnic amenities at the preserve. The preserve includes two parking areas located at different sections of the property and a maintained trail system that includes foot-bridges and boardwalks. Hunting is permitted on parts of the preserve.

Click here for a hiking trail map - Forty Acre Rock Trail Map

Directions: Starting from the intersection of US 601 and SC 903 (about 7 miles north of Kershaw SC), drive north on US 601 for about 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Nature Reserve Road. The lower parking lot is about .5 miles on the left. This parking lot is near the beaver pond. To reach the upper parking lot, drive north on Nature Reserve Road for 2.5 miles then take a left onto Conservancy Road. Follow Conservancy Road to the end. This parking area is closest to the actual rock. See the above trail map for reference.

Nature Perspective

If you can overlook the the graffiti, you will find the preserve blessed with a bounty of natural treasures. As noted previously, the area is very popular with amateur and professional botanists as well as birders. Local nature clubs frequently visit the area during the spring.

Granite Flatrock Outcrops

The granite flatrocks (including Forty Acre Rock) are the heart of the preserve and are dispersed throughout the property. These flatrocks provide a unique habitat for various plant life including some endangered species. Variations of habitat include exposed rock (mosses, lichens, and ferns), rock crevices (red cedar), larger island pockets of soil (red cedar, mosses, ferns, ragworts, puck's orpine, green rock-cress), and solution pools (elf orpine, sandwort, quillwort, and pool sprites).

Pool Sprite (Amphianthus pusillus), Forty Acre Rock

Pool Sprite (Amphianthus pusillus), Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley

Solution pools are natural depressions created by water slowly dissolving the rock surface. If these depressions contain water for weeks at a time during early spring they are also called vernal pools.

Solution pools that have a thin layer of soil but do not collect water (or the water does not remain long) are often occupied by elf orpine and/or piedmont sandwort during the spring.

Vernal pools (pools with consistent water during the early spring) offer habitat for the endangered pool sprite (Amphianthus pusillus) and several species of quillwort during the very early spring.

Some of these pools are successional with new species displacing the original. Evidence of this is apparent with grasses, sedges, and moss invading pool perimeters.


The last two weeks in March and the first week in April are prime times for observation of pool sprites and elf orpine. The flowers of the pool sprites are very small and might go unnoticed when one is standing above a vernal pool. It is best to squat down for a closer look. Note the above image, the pool sprite flower is just slightly larger than Roosevelt's ear on the dime!

Piedmont Sandwort, Forty Acre Rock

Piedmont Sandwort (Minuartia uniflora) - Will Stuart

Elf Orpine, Forty Acre Rock

Elf Orpine (Diamorphia smallii), Forty Acre Rock - Will Stuart



Elf Orpine and Piedmont Sandwort, Forty Acre Rock

Elf Orpine and Piedmont Sandwort, Forty Acre Rock - Will Stuart

Elf Orpine and Piedmont Sandwort in a vernal pool, Forty Acre Rock

Elf Orpine and Piedmont Sandwort in a vernal pool, Forty Acre Rock
- Steve Thomas



The transitional area between the exposed rock and the islands of thin soil often contain a mixture of juniper haircap moss and reindeer lichen. The larger islands of soil on the rock provide habitat for eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana L.), woolly ragwort (Senecio tomentosus), puck's orpine (Sedum pusillum), dayflowers (Commelina erecta), false garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve), spotted phacelia (Phacelia maculata), and in shady areas trout lilies (Erthronium americanum).

Note the most likely place to find puck's orpine is under red cedar trees found on the granite rock.


Spotted phacelia (Phacelia maculata)

Spotted phacelia (Phacelia maculata)
- Will Stuart

Puck's Orpine (Sedum pusillum)

Puck's Orpine (Sedum pusillum)
- Will Stuart

Woolly ragwort (Senecio tomentosus)

Woolly ragwort (Senecio tomentosus)
- Steve Thomas


Oak-Hickory Forests

The trail to the lower section of the preserve starts at the northeast corner of the main outcrop. Here one enters into the hardwood forest section of the property with occasional granite outcrops and boulders. Winding down to a seasonal waterfall and cave, this section of the sanctuary is littered with trout lilies during late March and early April. Note that trout lilies can also be found up on the main granite outcrop in some of the shady island depressions that contain soil and trees.

There is confusion as to whether the species of trout lily we observed on the preserve is Erythronium americanum (dogtooth violet) or Erythronium umbilicatum (dimpled trout lily). We're going with Erythronium americanum unless informed otherwise from a credible source. Erythronium umbilicatum has a distinctly indented apex on the fruit, unfortunately we did not observe any fruit during our visits.

Trout Lilies, Forty Acre Rock

Trout Lilies, Forty Acre Rock - Steve Thomas

Trout Lily, Forty Acre Rock

Trout Lily, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley



Other notable species observed during the springtime in the oak-hickory hardwood forests included liverleaf (Hepatica americana ), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.), star chickweed (Stellaria pubera Michx.), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum L.), arrowleaf (Hexastylis arifolia), and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum (L.)).

In some of the open areas you might come across sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis L.), spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.), or dayflower (Commelina erecta).

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum (L.))

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum (L.))
- Joe Kegley


Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum L.)

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum L.)
- Joe Kegley


Sundial Lupine (Lupinus perennis L.)

Sundial Lupine (Lupinus perennis L.)
- Will Stuart



Cave, Forty Acre Rock

Cave, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley

Take note that the trail starting from the top of the rock down to the seasonal waterfall and cave is somewhat steep and may become un-manageable after a heavy rain or during the autumn when the chestnut oak acorns have fallen.

There are a couple of caves in the area though none spectacular. The one easiest to find is next to the trail less than a quarter mile below the northeast section of Forty Acre Rock. During the springtime a waterfall may flow over some of the granite foundation near the cave.

Like Forty Acre Rock to the west, this cave is covered with graffiti. Unlike the main outcrop, the graffiti in the cave is more condensed. You may even find an occasional tree with graffiti in the surrounding area. Nothing appears to be off limits to the vandals who frequent the area.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources may try a new technique to deal with some of the graffiti found on the main granite outcrop using 'cosmetic fires'. The fires will be used to blacken and cover up the graffiti. SC DNR is hopeful that the soot produced will help prevent future painting by providing a loose and erodible substrate that spray paint will not adhere to.

Because fire has the potential to directly damage certain rare plants, SC DNR is implementing this technique slowly and cautiously in areas that are not ecologically sensitive.

More on SC DNR's technique to deal with graffiti at Forty Acre Rock.


Hardwood Floodplain Forests and Flat Creek

There are two easily accessible areas where one can enjoy Flat Creek and its floodplain forests. The first area is near the beaver pond, west of the granite overlook. A boardwalk directs you to Flat Creek and the associated floodplain. When visiting this area during the spring, expect to hear American Redstarts, Rred-eyed Vireos, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Northern Parulas, Kentucky Warblers, Prothonotary Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Acadian Flycatchers, and the occasional Barred Owl.

This first area also provides for some fine wildflower observation, including a fair number of atamasco lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) and jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum (L.)). In addition to various wildflower species found, a fair amount of switch cane grows along the trail in this section.

Northern Parula, Forty Acre Rock

Northern Parula, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley

Kentucky Warbler, Forty Acre Rock

Kentucky Warbler, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley



The other easily accessible floodplain area is near the old US 601 bridge. This section contained many of the same species mentioned above, though we did not observe any Kentucky Warblers near the old bridge. See the trail map included in the 'Introduction' section for specifics on how to reach the old 601 bridge. Note the bridge railing has collapsed on one side so pay attention if you visit. Nature is starting to reclaim the bridge. A very large group of atamasco lilies inhabit the floodplain next to Flat Creek just north of the bridge.

Kentucky Warbler, Forty Acre Rock

Atamasco Lilies, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley

Old US 601 Bridge, Forty Acre Rock

Old US 601 Bridge, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley



It is interesting to note that Flat Creek supposedly supports a healthy population of the Carolina heelsplitter mussel. This species is listed as federally endangered with only six known surviving populations: a small remnant population at Waxhaw Creek NC (Catawba River system), a small population in a short stretch of Goose Creek NC (tributary to the Rocky River in the Pee Dee River system), a population in a short stretch of Gills Creek in Lancaster County SC (Catawba River system), a population in a relatively short stretch of the Lynches River that extends into Flat Creek SC (Pee Dee River system), a population in Turkey Creek SC (Savannah River system), and another smaller population surviving in Cuffytown Creek (Savannah River system).

Summary

Below is a listing of some of the plant species noted at various locations in the preserve during our spring visits to Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve.

Atamasco Lily - Zephyranthes atamasca
Piedmont quillwort - Isoetes piedmontana
Black-spore quillwort - Isoetes melanospora Piedmont sandwort - Minuartia uniflora
Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis L. Pool Sprite - Amphianthus pusillus
Common Blue Violet - Viola sororia Willd. Puck's Orpine - Sedum pusillum
Dayflower - Commelina erecta Rue Anemone - Thalictrum thalictroides (L.)
Elf Orpine - Diamorphia smallii Small's ragwort - senecio smallii
Eastern Red Cedar - Juniperus virginiana L. Spiderwort - Tradescantia sp.
Hyssop Skullcap - Scutellaria integrifolia Spikemoss - Selaginella
False garlic - Nothoscordum bivalve Spotted phacelia - Phacelia maculata
False pimpernel - Lindernia monticola Spring Beauty - Claytonia virginica L.
Gray reindeer lichen - Cladina rangiferina Star Chickweed - Stellaria pubera Michx.
Green rock-cress - Arabis missouriensis Sundial Lupine - Lupinus perennis L.
Jack-in-the-pulpit - Arisaema triphyllum (L.) Trout Lily - Erthronium americanum
Juniper haircap moss - Polytrichum juniperinum Wild Geranium - Geranium maculatum L.
Mayapple - Podophyllum peltatum L. Woolly ragwort - Senecio tomentosus
Piedmont Ragwort - Packera millefolium

Below is a listing of the bird species noted throughout the preserve during our spring visits to Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve..

Waterfowl Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Indigo Bunting Red-eyed Vireo
Canada Goose Blue Jay Kentucky Warbler Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Wood Duck Carolina Chickadee Louisiana Waterthrush Tufted Titmouse
Songbirds Carolina Wren Northern Cardinal White-throated Sparrow
Acadian Flycatcher Common Yellowthroat Northern Parula Wood Thrush
American Goldfinch Eastern Phoebe Pine Warbler Yellow-billed Cuckoo
American Redstart Eastern Towee Prairie Warbler Raptors
Belted Kingfisher Great-crested Flycatcher Prothonotary Warbler Barred Owl
Black-and-White Wabler Hooded Warbler Red-bellied Woodpecker Red-shouldered Hawk

Footbridge, Forty Acre Rock

Footbridge, Forty Acre Rock - Joe Kegley

Wilderness Experience Perspective

There is ample opportunity to be alone at the preserve, but don't count on never seeing another person. The preserve is modestly utilized by the public so encounters are infrequent. Depending on the time of day you visit, you may come across other nature enthusiasts, photographers, hikers, or hunters depending on the season.

For the most part noise pollution is not a problem and you should be able to find quite areas within the preserve. Realize the old 601 road and its associated bridge is very close to the new 601 and you will hear traffic noise at that location.

There are many side trails made by prior visitors should you decide to get off the beaten path. Hiking these side trails lead to some of the less visited rock outcroppings.


Photography Perspective

The preserve is a landscape and flora destination for photographers. Unless photographing birds, expect to use a focal range of 200mm and less. Some of the flora (early spring) on the flatrock is very small so macro lenses would be very appropriate.

Gear/equipment Suggestions

  • Insect Repellent - While not too bad in the spring, it's good to be prepared.

Location and Points of Interest

Directions: Starting from the intersection of US 601 and SC 903 (about 7 miles north of Kershaw SC), drive north on US 601 for about 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Nature Reserve Road. The lower parking lot is about .5 miles on the left. This parking lot is near the beaver pond. To reach the upper parking lot, drive north on Nature Reserve Road for 2.5 miles then take a left onto Conservancy Road. Follow Conservancy Road to the end. This upper parking area is closest to the actual rock. See the above trail map in the 'Introduction' section for reference.

40 Acre Rock (Google interactive map)

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Additional Information




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