Arboretum Falls is the centerpiece of a place that used to be and will soon be again.
The Greenville Arboretum is a relatively unknown feature even to native Greenvillians, and the story behind the Arboretum is even less known. In 1932, The Greenville Garden Club won $500 (a lot of money back then) as 2nd prize in a Better Homes and Garden’s “More Beautiful America” contest. The club used the prize money to develop South Carolina’s first arboretum on five acres of Furman University land near Reedy River Falls. Built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Arboretum featured 25 species of trees and contained significant stone work including a spring house, steps, walls, and benches. Unfortunately, WWII took the focus away from the site and it fell into disrepair, which was exacerbated when Furman moved to their new campus.
With the development of Falls Park, this undeveloped, wooded “arm” of the park is quite noticeable as you come in from the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Fortunately, a project has been approved where the area above and below the waterfall is scheduled for landscaping. The original layout contained a small pond just below the falls that has been silted in for years. Hopefully, this will be restored.
Although on a low volume stream, the waterfall is quite picturesque. Standing in at about 10 feet, the stream plunges down the sheer rock face before gathering itself and sluicing down into what would have been the pond.
If you’ve never seen Arboretum Falls, you probably have been within 50 yards of it and never known it. To find the falls, start at the entrance to Falls Park at the Main Street end of the Liberty Bridge. Instead of taking the bridge, take the steps that lead down on the right into the park itself. The path the steps dump you out onto is actually the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Turn right and you’ll see a large grassy area in front of you with a round performance stage. A side trail runs alongside the grassy area and behind the stage. There it crosses the stream. Turn right and you’ll be facing the waterfall up ahead of you. To your left will be the spring house and other stone work.
While Arboretum Falls is one of our hidden gems, the upcoming landscaping project will turn this into something really special.