(The following article first appeared in the April/May issue of Playlist Magazine, and is republished here with their permission.)
By Gray Bostick
Photos by Judy Quick Sharon
It’s as certain as frost in February: the time has drawn near for Old Man Winter to loosen his grip and allow a day—or three—of sunshiny spring-like weather to peek thru, unleashing the beauty to come and freeing us from the wintertime blues.
But what to do? Join the thousands headed east to the coast, where you’ll fight the hassles of crowds at every turn, for everything, facing traffic delays, parking issues, food waits, distance, time and expenses? Or maybe opt for a change of pace and go leisure and local, laid-back and low-key, by heading a bit closer to a true treasure, Little Pee Dee State Park?
Located approximately 40 miles northwest of Florence in Dillon County, Little Pee Dee State Park, at 835 acres, is special in today’s world for being exactly what it is—and others ain’t: Nature in its most peaceful state. If you’re looking for the amenities that other parks offer—golf courses, zip lines, program activities, animal exhibits, etc—keep looking. But if it’s peace of mind and a calming of the soul you’re after, then LPDSP is a big BINGO.
In keeping with the original State Park premise to preserve natural sites for South Carolina residents, Little Pee Dee State Park keeps things simple, focusing their efforts on operating a 50-site campground—18 of which are dedicated to tents only—and maintaining a 1.3 mile Beaver Pond Nature Trail, as well as noted lake Norton, a 54-acre lake that has always been a popular spot for bass, beam and catfish anglers.
Park visitors can also explore the fascinating features, flora and fauna, to be found in the Little Pee Dee Swamp, as well as a Carolina Bay, a unique and mysterious geographic depression of unknown origin specific to the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and its sandy rim many attribute to the old ocean coastline.
The campsites are immaculate, spacious, well-packed and level, tucked amid tall pines and narrow, winding dirt—no asphalt allowed!—roads for shade, yet with ample room for parking. Almost all campsite feature electrical and water hookups and a built-in metal, circular fire-pit grill, as well as a picnic table for campers use. Benches spread throughout the campground foster a feeling of community, as does a large circular fire-ring, surrounded by benches for group gatherings and campfires to help maintain that “we got away” feeling.
And, just to allay any fears, for those who can’t seem to forsake the modern world for even a day, cell service at LPDSP is fairly strong—just be sure to turn your phone off after you’re finished. Nature beats anything Nokia will ever come up with.
Convenience is also key at LPDSP as they feature well-maintained comfort stations, two large picnic/gathering shelters, and a well-equipped and shaded playground, and allow pets on premise as long as they are leashed and under control, all perfect for a get-away day with the kids and the pup.
They also operate an office that serves as both a check-in/information site and a store where campers might be able to purchase the bare essentials, as well as a souvenir T-shirt or memento of their trip.
But all is not roses—yet, at LPDSP, as, due to a dam breach during recent weather events, Lake Norton is currently drained and no fishing is allowed.
A fact which saddens, but does not unsettle, park manager Michael Collier. “Little Pee Dee State Park is one of the most special and beautiful places in South Carolina,” Collier notes. “The centerpiece of our park is Lake Norton, which unfortunately suffered damage to its dam and spillway during recent hurricanes. But we’re in the process of rebuilding this treasured resource and are extremely excited about the future of the park and the lake; and we are truly grateful for all of our visitors who continue to make Little Pee Dee a truly special place.”
Collier says that while too many variables exist to put a specific time on a reopening, he expects the lake to be back operational this summer, with boat rentals beginning soon thereafter. Fishing, however, may be a different story as the lake itself will have to be prepared prior to the resumption of wetting a hook, ridding the lake of vegetation and getting a good fish population established, for example.
“But we’ll get there,” Collier ensures. “We have a lot of plans that we’re looking into—possibly expanding trails or adding programming, and we’re very excited about the future. We encourage people to come out and join us as we grow Little Pee Dee State Park.”
So, the next time Mother Nature deals you a really nice day and you wonder how to spend it, decide to swim against the human tsunami moving toward the coast and opt instead for the sanctity of nature to be found at Spanish Moss-draped Little Pee Dee State Park.
Visit for a day, then plan for a stay. Your sanity will thank you.
Little Pee Dee Sate Park is located at 1298 State Park Road in Dillon, and is open daily 9:00 am – 6:00 pm; they may be contacted at 843-774-8872 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.