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Sumter National Forest

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Sumter National Forest Overview

Sumter National Forest, located in the state's mountainous northwest corner, is tailor-made for people who love to cram as many outdoor activities into the day as possible. Spread out over three distinct ranger districts in the northwest corner of South Carolina, Sumter is diversity personified.

A float down the Tyger River can easily double as a fishing trip. A camp-out can become a chance to go horseback riding, since several campgrounds and recreation areas boast stalls. Sumter's recreation areas are rich with variety, allowing you to swim, fish, hike and ride at the same location.

Sumter's extensive recreational opportunities even extend beyond the forest's official borders. The Chattooga Hiking Trail links with the trail systems of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, while the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. Sumter's horse trails also link with trails in the Chattahoochee National Forest, creating an opportunity for endless equestrian adventures.

But the forest's crown jewel is without a doubt the furious, magnificent Chattooga River, one of the top destinations for whitewater enthusiasts in the Southeast. Clear out the trunk of your car, because chances are you'll be using a lot of your gear here.

Paddle the "Deliverance" River
The Chattooga River is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in the Southeast. Dense forests and undeveloped shorelines characterize the primitive nature of the area—so primitive, that the river served as the setting for the '70s Hollywood blockbuster "Deliverance." But don't let the Chattooga's infamous role in American pop culture deter you. This Wild and Scenic River is a joy to paddle, fish and hike along. The untouched forests boast abundant wildlife, but you'll have precious little time to enjoy the view, since taking your eyes of this rollicking river could spell trouble as it twists and turns around boulders, over ledges and through narrow chutes.

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Walk under a Waterfall
Sumter abounds in hiking trails, from half-mile rambles to multi-day expeditions. But none rival the Foothills National Recreation Trail, either in distance, scenery or difficulty. The 100-mile trail packs in a variety of terrain, from moderate stretches to steep ravines that warrant an "extremely difficult" rating. The trail crosses numerous rivers, and passes by Whitewater Fall, the highest east of the Mississippi. The trail also includes spurs and loops into two beautiful state parks, Oconee and Table Rock State Park. If you plan to tackle this National Recreational Trail, be sure to stop by the Andrew Pickens Ranger District office (Stumphouse Ranger Station) and pick up a detailed guide. A free brochure is also available from Duke Power's Oconee Nuclear Station (no, we're not kidding).

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Drop a Line
It shouldn't come as any surprise that a forest laced with rivers and dotted with lakes offers outstanding angling for everything from sunfish to trout. The biggest problem is deciding where to fish. The Chatooga is best known for paddling, but bring a fly rod along and try your luck against rainbows and browns. You can also cast for largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, striped bass and bream on the Savannah River. The Tyger, Enoree and Broad Rivers all offer good fishing for catfish, bream and bass. Turkey Creek provides especially scenic angling from bank or boat, and there's good fishing in nearby Steven's Creek, Beaverdam Creek and Cuffytown Creek. Big bass prowl Parson's Mountain Lake; catfish are the ticket in Lick Fork Lake; and Presbyterian Lake is bluegill heaven. You get the picture.

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Saddle Up for a Long Trail
Sumter's many charms include a rich network of trails and facilities for horse lovers. Shorter trails are perfect for an afternoon ride, while longer ones encourage some old-fashioned, four-legged camping. The 28-mile Rocky Gap/Willis Knob trail is one of the park's most popular bridal paths, and crosses the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River corridor. The Buncombe Horse Trail winds through forested hills and valleys, and allows riders the flexibility to take a short loop or the entire 28-mile trip. The moderate to difficult Long Cane Horse Trail covers diverse terrain along its 23-mile looped course, along with stocked water and hitching posts for your mount.

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Camp by a Swimming Hole
It's hard to beat camping when you want to get away from it all, whether you want to just hang out or indulge yourself in a variety of activities. And if you want to camp in Sumter National Forest, it's hard to beat Parson's Mountain recreation area. The 23-site, heavily-wooded campground provides an excellent base for other activities, including swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking. The lake boasts an earthen pier and a paved boat ramp for non-motorized boats to help get you close to the catfish, bream, and bass. The 1.4-mile Parson's Mountain Hiking Trail is a perfect way to introduce children to the joys of hiking, ending at a fire tower after a moderate 400-foot climb though hardwoods, pine and dry ride scrub oaks.

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