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Middle Saluda - South Carolina's First Scenic River

The Middle Saluda River - South Carolina's First Scenic River
The Middle Saluda River - South Carolina's First Scenic River
Dan Goodwin

The state of South Carolina, in 1978, chose the Middle Saluda River to be the first recipient of the Scenic River designation, an honor it justly deserves. To get a feel of what a Scenic River is and why the Middle Saluda qualifies, an interesting in-and-out hike (1.9 miles one way) on the Jones Gap Trail is recommended. This trail generally keeps you close to the river, exposing you to the sights and sounds of our truly most impressive mountain river.

From the Jones Gap Trail (blue-blazed) trail head located at the Jones Gap State Park headquarters, hike about .75 miles to Surprise Falls then continue on to cross the Middle Saluda on the John Reid Clonts Memorial Bridge. Just 0.1 miles later, you’ll see the short spur trail to Jones Gap Falls. For the half mile from the bridge to Ben’s Sluice at 1.5 miles, the river is at its wildest.

After the bridge, the trail climbs the side of the ridge and runs above the river all the way to Ben’s Sluice, giving hikers an “aerial view” of the river’s antics. Past Ben’s Sluice, the river settles down (comparatively) a bit taking you to the trail’s intersection (at 1.8 miles) with Coldspring Branch Trail. At this point, the Jones Gap Trail temporarily moves away from the river to follow the ridge into a cove, but continue on for another 100 yards to see Toll Road Falls. This is your turnaround point. (If you are adventurous, you can bushwhack upstream another 50 yards to Upper Toll Road Falls.)

Once back at your car, you’ll have a clear definition of a “scenic river.”