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Ellicott Rock Wilderness

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Wilderness

9000 acres all to myself, or so it seemed. As I laced up my boots I couldn't help but notice that my car was the only car in the parking lot. That reminded me one of the best reasons for hiking here.

The Ellicott Rock Wilderness is located on the borders of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Bisecting the wilderness is the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. Ellicott Rock, the year 1811 chiseled deep into the gray stone, is the reason for the name of this botanically significant wilderness area.

Loop

As I began hiking on my favorite loop in South Carolina, a light rain began to fall. The rain felt refreshing and only added to the hike. At more than 80 inches of rainfall a year, rain can be expected here without warning. The sound of trickling water filled the air as I headed down the trail through a dark tunnel of trees.  

Home to maidenhair ferns, bloodroot, Catesby's trilliums, dwarf crested irises, and the rare and endangered Oconee bell, the elevation here ranges from 1600 to 3600 feet. Although these are not high elevations, the temperature here is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the lower elevations southeast of here. 
Rainfall is frequent and plentiful. The annual average is from 70 to 80 inches, nearly rainforest conditions. As with all of the Southern Appalachians, rain gear is necessary for even the shortest hikes.
The forest is dense with impassable rhododendron and dog hobble. Ferns and moss cover the rich and dark soil that is almost always damp after a recent rainfall. 

Slatten Ridge

This section of the Slatten Ridge trail is for the most part a downhill moderate hike. For nearly seven miles this well defined trail traverses small streams passes by several excellent campsites. After passing the Bad Creek Trail at six miles the trail descends steeply on switch-backs to the Chattooga River. At the junction of the Slatten Rridge Trail and and the Chattooga River Trail is several over used campsites. 

After reaching this junction, you are only just a few feet from Ellicott Rock, the namesake of this wonder filled wilderness area. Today the wilderness draws its name from Andrew Ellicott, who in  surveyed the 35th parallel that today marks the boundary.  

Lat 35AD 1813 NC+SC

In 1813 another group of surveyors set out to determine the "actual" border of the three states. Their intention was to verify Ellicott's location of the border. The result of that trip was an inscription on another rock named Commissioners Rock. Located just 10 FEET south of Ellicott Rock the hand chiseled inscription reads "LAT 35AD 1813 NC+SC". To find the rocks, hike the Chattooga River Trail 1.7 miles north from the junction of the East Fork Trail and the Chattooga River Trail. After traveling 1.7 miles on the Chattooga River Trail, you will walk over a small wooden footbridge. Look closely to the left and along the riverbank on the Georgia side of the river you will see two orange ribbons on the trees. This is the place in the river that you will find both rocks. There is also a ribbon nailed into the trees on the Chatooga River Trail that marks the approximate location on the trail that the border is near. I don't recommend that anyone hike to either of these rocks because the river can be very dangerous here. The possibility of foot entrapment and subsequent drowning is very real. The river has claimed many victims and is very unforgiving.

After turning left (south) on the Chattooga River Trail, the path to the river and Ellicott Rock is only one hundred yards away. We don't recommend that anyone hike through the river to find the rock. This is an untamed river and sudden surges of water can come rushing through without warning. An unseen cloud burst many miles upstream can cause hazardous currents that have taken several hiker's lives in the past.

Trail to Ellicott Rock

Marking one side trail that leads to the river is a plastic flag nailed to a tree. This is one of several ways to access the fast moving Chattooga River. In the center of the river is Commissioners Island named for the other famous rock in the river. Getting to either involves wading and getting wet. The footing can be very tricky in this section of the river and wading here should be avoided. 

Depending on the season that you are here, the chisel marks are not far from the water line.

 

 

Side Trail

If you are dayhiking in the area and you are in this area on a Saturday night, then head on over to Hillbillys.

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