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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to help 12,000 Year History Park novices confused by the trail signs. The maps on those signs show the entire Three Rivers Greenway trail system, stretched out from the I-26 bridge over the Saluda River to the west, the Broad River diversion dam to the north and the I-77 bridge over the Congaree River to the south.

The Timmerman Trail in the 12,000 Year History Park comprises only a tiny chunk of those maps. Anyone with good eyes and map-reading skills should be able to figure out the loop at the bottom of those maps, but lots of people still come away confused.

Is this a loop trail that comes back here? If I go this way at the bridge, am I on the loop? How long is the loop?           

I always enjoyed explaining the trail configuration to the confused, while also finding out more about the various folks drawn to the system for the first time. But I couldn’t help but wonder what people do when nobody is there to straighten them out. Oh sure, it’s nearly impossible to get truly lost on the 12,000 Year History Park trails, but it can be frustrating not to know if you’re heading in the right direction.

Thanks to new signs placed by the City of Cayce at the three entrances, that’s no longer a problem. The signs are at the parking lot on Otarre Parkway (still referred to as SCANA Parkway on many maps), at the entrance to the trail near the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center on Fort Congaree Trail, and at the Thomas Newman Boat Landing on Granby Landing Road.
They show the segments of the system in different colors — the main loop, the short spur to Fort Congaree Trail, and the longer spurs to Otarre Parkway and Granby Landing Road. Even more helpfully, they provide distances for each.

So now, when newcomers enter the trail system, for instance, from Fort Congaree Trail, they can decide how far they want to walk, run, bike or skate. One time around the loop along Congaree Creek alone will be about 2 miles. Want to head out to the Congaree River? Add another 1.5 miles for the out-and-back to the boat landing. Or if they started at the Otarre Parkway parking lot, they can see their choices are 1.5 miles (to the creek bridge and back), 3.5 miles (to the loop, around it, and back to the parking lot) or 5 miles (to the loop, halfway around the loop, out to the boat landing and back, around the rest of the loop, then back to the parking lot).

While on the trails, mileage markers let you know how far you have been or how far you have to go, depending on which direction you are heading. The loop mileage markers can be slightly confusing at first for someone getting on at Granby Landing Road or Fort Congaree trail heads. The mileage figures had to start somewhere, and that somewhere is the bridge over Congaree Creek closest where the Otarre Parkway spur meets the loop. Also, the numbers are set up for someone going clockwise around the loop. Of course, it’s easy enough for counterclockwise folks like me to adjust to mileage counting down instead of counting up.
Overall, the signs and mileage markers are informative and easy to understand, even for those without map-reading skills. Thanks, Cayce, for recognizing the need and doing something about it. I will miss what used to be a good excuse to talk with strangers as they pondered the old maps, which are still there in case people want to know what lies north of the boat ramp on the trail.
Speaking of that, it would be useful for additional detailed maps to be posted at the entrance to the section north of the boat ramp, at the parking lot on Old State Road and at the parking lot at the corner of Brookcliff Drive and Riverland Drive. I hope those are in the works.