Diggin’ Ditch Pond

Ditch Pond Heritage Preserve, near Williston, S.C. (Photo/Tom Poland)

Drive south-southwest about 85 miles to Williston, S.C., and on Highway 78 near SC 781, you’ll see a small lane that leads to Ditch Pond Heritage Preserve. Ditch Pond, as it’s called, is a Carolina bay that takes its name from ditches that attempted to drain the bay. Despite the ditches, Ditch Pond is relatively undisturbed, a rarity as Carolina bays go. And as many Carolina bays go, it’s a rich repository of wildlife and vegetation.

I went there back in late April. Though I was closer to the Piedmont than the Lowcountry, Ditch Pond gave me the feeling I was down near Beaufort or Charleston. A short walk from the entrance, I found myself in an alleyway of large oaks and Spanish moss. The skeins of Spanish moss hung long and majestically and late afternoon light lit up as if on fire.

I made my way to the boardwalk that extend into the bay’s open area and here the sunlight slanted low against a distant edge of trees with light bark and willowy canopies. Between that and far away edge and me, gallinules hopscotched across lily pads and herons stalked the shallows as braces of ducks jetted overhead. To the far left of the end of the boardwalk a patch of blooms the color of margarine broke the greenery. Must have been blooming bladderworts. The sunlight, fading from its all-day travels, yielded a soft incandescent glow to everything and the cumulative effect seduced me into thinking, “Beautiful and wild like Africa, just like Africa.” I half expected to see a herd of wild beasts thunder down to the water edge only to blunder into an ambush by big crocs.

Ditch pond sits in Aiken and Barnwell counties. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources owns and maintains Ditch Pond Heritage Preserve, some 296 acres. Ditch Pond, about 25 acres, was first documented in 1973 as a Carolina bay. Eight rare plant species of concern inhabit the property, including blue maidencane, Robbin’s spikerush, creeping St. John’s wort, piedmont water milfoil, awned meadow beauty, slender arrowhead, Florida bladderwort and piedmont bladderwort.

Be sure to take a camera. Find a good spot to sit and be still and wait to see what creatures venture forth. If you go, I hope your luck is as good as mine. Just before leaving — it was getting dark — I walked over to photograph the DNR signs. Glancing across the sandy parking lot I spotted a crumpled green wad of paper — a $5 bill. You see, it pays to take day trips to places off the beaten path.

If You Go …

No fee

No facilities

Do not disturb any plants.

Stay on the trail.

Ditch Pond Heritage Preserve/Wildlife Management Area

Latitude 33.41542, Longitude -81.47137 [PK367]

Williston, S.C. 29853

Directions: From Williston, drive west on US 78 for approximately 3.0 miles and the parking area is on the right.

www.dnr.sc.gov/mlands/managedland?p_id=103

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]