Croft State Natural Area is located five miles SE of Spartanburg on SC Hwy. 56. The site has bedrock of schists and gneisses which, over geologic time, have resulted in typical undulating Piedmont terrain with some outcroppings. The two major streams are Fairforest and Kelsey Creeks, part of the Broad River Drainage. The property was acquired by the US Government in 1941 for use as an Infantry Training Base, Camp Croft. Prior use of the land was for small farms, pastures and woodlots. Today it is a mosaic of mature upland, cove and bottomland hardwood forests, along with old fields with 50+ years of succession (since the state purchased the tract). Most of Croft SNA is well on the way to climax harwood forest. Two-three foot diameter trees are common. Two medium-sized lakes, Craig and Johnson, are managed by SCPS and SCDNR, respectively.
The remains of 3 grist mills and a dry-stone bridge, family cemeteries, one monument to Whitestone Springs Resort and Bottling can be found on the site. Remnants of a Native American soapstone quarry, registered as a Heritage Trust Site, are also found at Croft.
Go to the website, www.southcarolinaparks.com, to access Croft State Natural Area. It is located at 450 Croft State Park Road, Spartanburg, SC 29302, phone 864.585.1283.
WatchList species found at Croft State Natural Area (CSNA) are: Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatach, Wood Thrush, Check-will's Widow, Prairie Warbler. Although found in CSNA,this not the top one or two sites in the state for these species, but they are probable confirmed nesters from the Breeding Bird Atlas Project (BBAP). 38 confirmed nesting birds and 49 probable/possible nesting species (total 87) were recorded during the BBAP in 1989. CSNA is one of the best examples of mature upland hardwoods, cove hardwoods and bottomland hardwoods left in the Piedmont section of SC with all the bird species associated with these habitats. This relatively undisturbed 7100 acre pocket is located in one of the most densely populated areas of the state. The bird data was gathered between 1988-2005 from Cristmas Bird Counts, Migration Counts and personal observations plus the BBAP. One rarity, the Golden-winged Warbler, was noted on September 18,1999.
Croft State Natural Area boundaries are not clearly defined. Over population of native white-tailed deer is negatively impacting the ecology due to overbrowsing. Limited hunting of the deer is recomended. The nearby Spartanburg County landfill is a threat until it is covered and sealed off. Since the two main creeks are not entirely within the CSNA boundaries, there is water pollution from adjacent urban areas.
Kudzu and microstegium, invasive plant species pose minor threats by displacing native species. There is a potential for abuse to the landscape by overuse by mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Formerly an Army artillery training center, the site was purchased from the US Government by the state of South Carolina in 1949. It was formerly called Croft State Park.
Upland hardwoods are dominated by oaks and hickories with a large number of other canopy species. The coniferous woods contain 50+ year-old pines, hemlocks, E. red cedars as a result of old field succession. Cove hardwoods have deep, moist, rich soils. Tulip poplars, American beech and cucumber magnolia are often indicator species. This is a rare and unique habitat duee to its richness of plants and maturity. Upland and cove hardwoods are the least disturbed natural comunities at Croft. The bottomland hardwood forests are more disturbed by development.
Croft State Natural Area is primarily used as a passive natural area where hiking and birdwatching are encouraged. It is secondarily used for recreation and tourism. Fishing m mountain biking and horseback riding are allowed.