This is Carolina: ‘River rat’ prompts conservation efforts through riverside campsites

New campsites at Lynches River

FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - An effort two years in the making has made its first steps to come to fruition.

Among the 66 miles of trees lining the Lynches River is a campsite made from wood. It’s the first of six that a team hopes to build.

Barry Frick helped start the initiative to build the campsite. He’s the owner of Riverrats Canoe Rentals out of Scranton, S.C. and grew up, lives and runs his Riverrats business on the Lynches River.

He said his goal has always been to get more people out on the river. In order to begin building the campsites, Frick had to find a way to get money to build them. It started with scenic river approval.

“FOREVR started the dedication of the river. The first steps was getting the river approved for a scenic river,” Frick said.

Soon after getting it approved as a scenic river, the next steps were made to get it registered as a “Revolutionary” river.

“Holly got involved and really brought a lot of information that we weren’t aware of at that time. Holly has been a leading role and getting all this done,” Frick explained.

Holly Beaumier is the executive director of the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau. Beaumier told WMBF News the National Recreation Trail was set up as a suggestion by the Heritage Corridor.

“They came in and said this is so pristine and so awesome, and the story behind it is just amazing,” she said of the process.

She explained they applied for the National Recreation Trail certification about five years ago, and then from there got a grant from the National Parks Service to jump-start the campsite initiative. That’s when she said the “Friends of Revolutionary Rivers,” also called FOREVR, came in to help brainstorm ideas for optimal river usage.

The FOREVR group got the Lynches River a “Revolutionary” river standing because its historical stories play a major role in American history.

“Francis Marion, the Swampfox, during the Revolutionary War, he spent a little under a year in this area hitting the British with guerrilla warfare tactics and then running back into the swamps, and this river leads into those swamps that he was hiding out at,” Beaumier said. “There are just tons of stories. In the Johnsonville area there are a bunch of great, huge, hollow cypress trees, and you can kind of picture that’s a typical spot that they would hide their ammunition inside the trunks of trees. So it’s easy to imagine them being there,” she continued with a smile.

The 66-mile Revolutionary river trail begins at the Lynches River County Park.

“It flows down the Lynches River through creeks surrounding Snows Island, and into the Pee Dee (River), includes six miles of the Pee Dee,” Beaumier said.

The river is essentially untouched, crisp and chilly, even in October. It’s the perfect getaway, so Beaumier and Frick used the scenic river approval and Revolutionary river registry to help get money for an idea to spread awareness and conservation efforts for the river. With the money raised, the first campsite was built and opened two months later on September 1.

“We made a point of mapping out where all of the public access landings are. And then from there, we’re trying to put every 10 miles a place where you can stop in and camp so that you can make your way down the river within six days, or if you’re really adventurous and skip one (campsite), then you can do it in three days if you do 20 miles a day,” Beaumier said.

Frick owns 17 acres around the Lynches River, including the property the first platform campsite has been built on. All supplies had to be boated in, and it’s only accessible by water. Frick cleaned out some of the waterways to make it more accessible to everyone.

“It’s going to be bug-free so that’s the most awesome part,” Beaumier said.

Frick and Beaumier hope people enjoy and appreciate the almost untouched Lynches River as much as them. “If we can get people in it 30 weekends a year this year will really feel like we done good,” Frick said with a smile as he was ready to board his swamp boat back home.

The campsites are $20 a night and the money goes back to river conservation, Frick said.

Click here for more information on the camps and to book a night click here to be redirected to the Riverrats web page.

Click here for more information on the ‘Friends of Revolutionary Rivers’ group.

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