Lake Conestee Nature Park consists of 400 acres of beautiful natural habitat just 6 miles from downtown Greenville, SC. The park contains both upland hardwood and evergreen forest,successional shrub cover, meadows, extensive wetlands, a lake, oxbow sloughs and 2 miles of the Reedy River and associated riparian bottomland forests Current facilities include nearly 10 miles of trails (40% paved, wheel-chair accessible, with remainder natural surface), five trailheads with public parking, over 2,000 linear feet (0.35 miles) of boardwalk in the wetland areas, and two large wetland/wildlife observation decks with interpretive signs. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and there is no charge for entry. For more information about the park, including the Master Plan for future development, the website is http://www.lakeconesteenaturepark.com/. The properties are protected through a conservation easement held by the land trust, Upstate Forever.
Lake Conestee Nature Park is the wintering grounds of the largest reported population of Rusty Blackbirds in South Carolina. Between 700 and 1000 individuals have been reported.
Research on Rusty Blackbirds is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Russell Greenberg, Director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Washington DC. The bird checklist, developed since Nov. 2006 includes 214 species. Dr. Paul Serridge and members of the Greenville County Bird Club gathered data.
Over time, approximately 75% of the original lake has filled in naturally with sediments from the Reedy River, which contains pollutants form the river's industrial past. Today the majority of the contaminants are covered by layers of more recent sediment and by bottomland forest.
The Conestee Foundation entered into a Voluntary Cleanup Contract (VCC) with the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to safely manage both the legacy contaminants in place and the historic Lake Conestee dam resulting in a Restrictive Covenant (RC) defining limits on activities in the lakebed for the protection of both the public and the environment. Disturbance of soils, sediments and wetlands is minimized and swimming or taking of fish for consumption are prohibited.
Additional conservation problems include management of invasive plant species. These are gradually being eliminated from the site where feasible and as resources allow.
The conservation measures required under the BCC and RC provide effective stewardship of the legacy pollutants in subsurface sediments. The Conestee Foundation is developing plans to refurbish the lake dam to ensure long-term structural integrity.
The first phase of removal of invasive Bradford Pear trees in the pasture land and old field communities has been completed. This species, multiflora rose, and privet are the dominant invasive plant species on the site, and future plans include removal of the majority of these plants to the extent feasible.
Lake Conestee Nature Park is owned and managed by the Conestee Foundation with Dr. Jeffrey Beacham as executive director.
Topography is gently rolling hills in uplands and riverine flood plain in lowlands. Approximately 130 acres of the site consist of the former Lake Conestee lake bed, which now is approximately 75% filled-in and has developed into a bottomland forest. Approximately 25% of the lake remains as open water and river channel. The site is dominated in upland areas by southern mixed hardwood forest and in lowland areas by bottomland hardwood forest. The dominant species in upland forests consist of species typical of the piedmont, including various oaks and hickories; and the bottomland forests are dominated by box elder, red maple, ash species and privet. Approximately 15 acres of uplands consist of pastureland, dominated by grasses and herbs; and approximately 12 acres are old field habitat, dominated by herbs, grasses and various shrub/sapling species.
100% of Lake Conestee Nature Park is devoted to wildlife conservation and recreation and tourism.
Birdwatching and hiking are the most common uses. Wheelchair-accessible trails are accessed from three trailheads.