Oh, no! The kids are out of school

By MELANIE SMITH melanie@theitem.com
Posted 12/20/17

If you're trying to find something to do to keep your kids busy during Christmas break, Lynches River County Park might be the answer for a day trip.

I recently traveled to the park on a day trip with the Sumter Digital Camera Club, and everyone …

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Oh, no! The kids are out of school

Posted

If you're trying to find something to do to keep your kids busy during Christmas break, Lynches River County Park might be the answer for a day trip.

I recently traveled to the park on a day trip with the Sumter Digital Camera Club, and everyone in the group found something to interest them.

On 676 acres, this park seems to have it all - nature trails with a boardwalk, a large education center with animals to meet, picnic spots and swinging bridges of the canopy walk. Several of the bridges are connected by platforms perched in large trees.

Everywhere I go, plants are what usually attract my attention, so I was hooked as soon as we got out of the van. At this park, there are pitcher plants that despite the recent cold weather are still growing in a small garden in front of the Environmental Discovery Center. Kids will love seeing these - the sweet liquid inside the plants attracts insects that get stuck in them and die, and the plants then feed on the dead insects, according to www.carnivorous-plants.com. (Kids love gross but interesting things, right? I admit I did. OK, I still kind of do.)

A group nearby was playing a rollicking game of cornhole, and a fire pit was also set up and still smoking when we arrived in the afternoon.

Inside the discovery center, there is plenty to do and a variety of critters to meet. An adorable Cuban tree frog smiled at me through the glass of his or her decked-out aquarium, and its neighbor in another aquarium, a soft-shelled turtle, hid in a hollowed-out rock while staring at me. Only its snout poked out to keep watch. In a huge tank down the hallway, an alligator was floating and watching visitors.

A separate room held glass cases of labeled, long-deceased insects, and about a dozen pelts were arrayed on a table nearby. Each pelt had a sign on it asking you to guess which animal it had come from, and you're encouraged to touch them and then turn over the sign to find out if your guess is correct. I think the softest fur came from the racoon and, surprisingly enough, an opossum.

There are even themed backpacks hanging from hooks inside that you can grab and take with you into the woods. Each is basically a kit dedicated to a topic such as birds or plant life you might see and includes ways to identify them.

A door at the end of the center leads to the swinging bridges outside, which were probably the highlight for most of the camera club members.

Each short bridge is connected to a platform high in a tree, which is connected to the next bridge, and the bridges move about as you cross them. We took turns crossing, most of us gingerly making our way to the next platform with our hands on the rope sides the whole time. My dad, though, practically zoomed across and jangled the whole bridge wildly.

After making our way back to the center, we took a path to the river and headed into the woods by way of a very long boardwalk. We all heard the cornhole players still hooting and hollering through the trees.

The boardwalk connects to other nature trails, so you can either keep going or turn back and follow the boardwalk to the center again.

In the summer, I can imagine this park would be perfect for canoeing and camping, but there is still plenty to see this time of year. Enjoy a day trip by yourself, or take your children to learn and play in the woods.

The park is at 5094 County Park Road, Coward, and is only closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are cabins and campgrounds available to rent, and the park often has special events going on. Follow its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EDCatLRCP.

The Environmental Discovery Center and canopy walk are open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call (843) 389-0550 for more information about the park.