A Prehistoric Playground
Only 30 minutes away from downtown Columbia, S.C., Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve feels like a trip back in time.
Layered sandstone formations, riddled with the fossils of ancient marine creatures, crop up on either side of the well-kept trails. Native longleaf pines tower overhead. Near the preserve’s entrance, the only natural waterfall on the state’s coastal plain splashes into a small pool.
Rich in culture, history, unusual geology, plants and wildlife, Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve is a wonderful and educational place to visit. A new kiosk near the preserve’s titular formation – the now-toppled Peachtree Rock – describes the area’s unique natural offerings.
A Fallen Landmark
The “big rock” for which Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve was named took the shape of an inverted pyramid, balanced on its tip. This unusual silhouette was created when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean receded long ago. The lower layers of the rock eroded more quickly, creating a wide top and narrow base.
Erosion, storms and visitors carving into the rock gradually wore away at that fragile pedestal. On December 7, 2013, a hiker observed that Peachtree Rock had toppled.
The sandstone’s crumbly nature made it impossible to hold up the rock artificially, so the decision was made it leave it on its side. The Nature Conservancy and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC-DNR) continue to monitor its position and stability.
While the big rock has fallen, a smaller but similar formation – affectionately known as “Little Peachtree Rock” – still stands just off the trail near the back of the preserve.
Peachtree Rock is a Heritage Preserve co-managed by the Conservancy and SC-DNR. A shared goal for the preserve is to nurture its on-site native longleaf pine forests. Seventy-four acres of non-native slash pine were removed and replanted with longleaf in 2007. Those seedlings are being nurtured through controlled burning, which has taken place in 2008, 2014 and 2016 to remove dense underbrush and encourage longleaf germination and growth.