Connections for Sustainability

Connections for Sustainability home

Walk in the Woods

Burrell’s Ford/King Creek Falls and the Foothills Trail along the Chattooga River

with Livability Educator Jaclin DuRant

The air temperature in Greenville this June has been a bit warm, so I decided to take a weekend trip up to the North Eastern corner of the state and cool down a bit. I went camping at the Burrell’s Ford campground and divided my time between hiking in the mountains and relaxing in the river.

photo A Giant Orbweaver (Araneus bicentenarius)who set up her web next to our camp site

A Giant Orbweaver (Araneus bicentenarius) set up her web next to our camp site

There are quite a few trails along the Chattooga, too many to hike in a single weekend, but I managed to explore a good bit. My favorite hike was from the campground up to King’s Creek Falls, back to the Foothills trail, looping around to the Chattooga and then alongside the river back to the campground. There are a variety of ecosystems to explore in this area, and an incredible diversity of plant and animal life to go along with them.

photo King Creek Falls, a short hike from the campground

King Creek Falls, a short hike from the campground

One of my favorite plants that I saw on this trip was the Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant. These unique little plants are hard to miss amongst a carpet of leaf litter. The whole plant is white, signifying a complete lack of chlorophyll, the molecule that is responsible for performing photosynthesis and providing most plants with food. Since they can’t make their own food, these plants are considered epiparasitic. They absorb nutrients through their roots from mychorrizal fungi that in turn absorb nutrients from a plant. The mychorrizal fungus and plant have a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship, and through the fungi, the epiparasite feeds off both of them.

photo of Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)

Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)

In addition to cool plants and fungi, I also saw a wide variety of animals, including a few different species of salamanders. Salamanders are mostly nocturnal, but an early morning hike may catch a few out of their burrows. Almost half of the world’s salamanders are endangered or threatened, and the Appalachians are home to 75 of the known 535 species of salamanders, making this region a hotspot of salamander biodiversity.

photo of An early morning salamander peeking out of its burrow

An early morning salamander peeking out of its burrow

Experts believe that pollution, development, invasive species, mining, and climate change are some of the major threats contributing to the decline of salamanders. Amphibians have porous skin that absorbs water, as well as anything in the water, making salamanders and frogs especially sensitive to environmental pollutants. I was very careful not to touch any salamanders and to keep my insect repellant sprayed pants out of the stream. Even small amounts of sunscreen, lotion, and insect repellant may be enough to kill an amphibian.

photo of a stonefly (Order Plecoptera) relaxing on a leaf near the river

A stonefly (Order Plecoptera) relaxing on a leaf near the river

In addition to salamanders, the rivers and creeks were teaming with fish, insects, and other macroinvertebrates. One of my favorite moments of the trip was watching two sets of damselflies laying their eggs in the Chattooga. I didn’t get a picture of the damselflies, since I had decided not to bring my camera out into the river with me, but I did get a picture of this female Broad Necked Root Borer. At the base of her abdomen, you can see her tube-like ovipositor, the structure that she uses to lay her eggs.

photo of Female Broad Necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis)

Female Broad Necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis)

Summer time in the south is always a challenge, and a trip to the mountains to rest your (insect repellant-free) feet in a cold river is a great way to beat the heat. To make things even more exciting, Burrell's Ford Campground is free to camp. Just come prepared to work a little bit to get there. The campground is .3 miles from the parking lot, so pack light, and plan to enjoy an exciting variety of wildlife.

photo of Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) on the banks of the Chattooga River

Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) on the banks of the Chattooga River

Return to Walk in the Woods homepage Woods Walk Homepage