Jones Gap State Park will soon grow by 170 acres thanks to the collaboration of a number of local and state conservation groups in securing the River Falls property along the Middle Saluda River in northern Greenville County.
In announcing the acquisition of the property along River Falls Road leading into the state park, Naturaland Trust Executive Director Mac Stone said the project is an example of what can be accomplished when individuals and organizations join together to protect natural resources.
“No good things happen in a vacuum,” Stone said. “We depend upon a community of support.”
A conservation partnership
Naturaland Trust, founded in 1973 by Greenville native and conservation pioneer Tommy Wyche, purchased the property from Bob Moore and Gloria Moore Emory and will hold it until it can be transferred to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The purchase was underwritten by contributions from several local and state conservation groups:
- This was the first grant approved by the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust, which was created by Greenville County Council in 2020 and kicked in $100,000 toward the purchase.
- The S.C. Conservation Bank contributed $650,000.
- Easley Combined Utilities contributed $70,000 as part of its efforts to protect the watershed which provides drinking water for its 15,000 customers.
SCPRT is seeking a $500,000 grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund that will cover the remainder of the purchase price and provide for some of the initial site work necessary to integrate the property into Jones Gap State Park.
“Things like this don’t just happen with one entity alone,” said Carlton Owen, chairman of the Greenville County Historic and Natural Resources Trust. “We’re not talking about just another 170 acres, we’re talking about a commitment to the public trust for future generations.”
Raleigh West, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank, thanked the Moore family for having the vision to protect the property and ensure it is preserved for future generations.
“The indispensable ingredient to every conservation effort is the land owners,” West said. “Had y’all not been willing to partner with us, this would not have happened.”
Paul McCormack, director of the S.C. State Park Service, said plans for incorporating the River Falls property into Jones Gap State Park are in the very early stages and that initial archeological work on the site revealed Native Americans artifacts. He added such finds will form part of how the public experiences the new addition to the park.
McCormack also said additional parking for visitors will be part of plans for the property. The limited existing parking has impacted the number of visitors who can access the park at any given time in recent years, and he said the new property will create opportunities for more people to enjoy Jones Gap.
Because River Falls is 170 acres of bottomland with 750 feet of frontage on the Middle Saluda River, McCormack said it will offer opportunities for visitors with mobility issues to enjoy the park, most of which is mountainous terrain.
“This piece of property is special,” he said. “Our job moving forward as stewards is to ensure that it remains a special place.”
Jones Gap State Park fast facts
- The park covers 13,000 acres with Caesar’s Head State Park in what is called the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.
- The park contains two scenic waterfalls, 18 backcountry campsites and more than 60 miles of trails.
- Park hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hikers must be off of trails by 7 p.m.
- Admission is $6 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and $3.50 for children ages 6-15; children 5 and under are admitted free.