Harbison Environmental Education Forest
Bounded along its northeastern edge by the Broad River, Harbison Environmental Education Forest encompasses 2,137 acres of forestland only nine miles from downtown Columbia. Its unique urban location makes Harbison one of the largest public greenspaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States.
Over thirty one miles of roads and trails weave through the pine and hardwood forest, crossing wandering streams and descending through leafy glades to the Broad River. Wet weather may prompt the trails to be temporally closed.
Harbison Environmental Education Forest's emphasis is on natural resource education, providing demonstrations of forestry practices as well as recreation. Visitors are encouraged to come, enjoy, and even volunteer to help with the development of this valuable urban forest.
The history of the Forest dates back thousands of years. Catawba and Cherokee tribes frequently traversed the woodlands to reach an ancient fording location on the Broad River. Early roads and paths leading to the ford made the area an attractive location for the first European settlers who formed a community which came to be known as Dutch Fork (from "Deutsche volk").
In 1951 the South Carolina Forestry Commission purchased 2,135 acres of land on the Broad River from the Board of National Missions for the Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church. The Church stipulated that the land be named "Harbison Forest" in honor of a major benefactor.
In 1981, the Forestry Commission approved a master plan for the long-term development of the tract. The goal was to provide a public greenspace to serve as an educational environment promoting the value of the state's forests and encouraging the stewardship of all of our natural resources.
Management on the Forest
Harbison Environmental Education Forest is managed primarily to serve as an educational and recreational greenspace for metropolitan Columbia and the state of South Carolina. Portions of the Forest are used to demonstrate the value of various forestry practices, from prescribed burning to thinning, harvest, site preparation and planting.
The forest mix is roughly forty percent loblolly and shortleaf pine, forty percent natural longleaf pine, twenty percent bottomland flood plain hardwoods and hardwood drains.
The soil types on Harbison indicate that it once formed one of the first ocean ridges on the coastal plain. As the oceans receded, longleaf pine was established. Today, steep bluffs on the Forest rise along the Broad River which regularly floods several times a year.
Harbison Environmental Education Forest has 18 miles of trails designed for walking, jogging, hiking and bicycling that range from moderately easy to difficult. A canoe landing located near the Broad River provides access for kayaks and canoes as a put in or take out from the river. A simple float plan(pdf) completed at the Educational Center or by calling (803) 896-8890 allows paddlers access to the landing. There is no additional fee (parking permits are required).
Parking passes are required of all visitors to Harbison State Forest and can be obtained at fee boxes located at each parking area.
Proceeds from the parking passes help to maintain and improve the trail system on the Forest. Harbison State Forest does not receive any tax dollars for its operations, relying instead on user fees, facility rental, and the sale of forest products to cover these expenses.
The Harbison Environmental Education Center, a 5,000 square foot log building, serves as a classroom for visitors' introduction to the Forest. When not being used for educational programs, the Center can be rented for meetings.
Encircling the Education Center, the Learning Trail offers four outdoor classrooms with lessons designed to increase one's awareness of the complexity of forest ecosystems.
Located a short walk down the Discovery Trail is a pine Gazebo surrounded by a meadow and woods dotted with smaller picnic areas.
Visitors who head north about 1/3 mile up the trail across from the Gazebo Field will find the Eagle Shelter. This rectangular picnic shelter provides a great setting for outings where the goal is to get away from the hurried pace of urban living.
Both the Gazebo and the Eagle Shelter may be reserved up to 6 months in advance to ensure that the perfect picnic spot will be waiting for you. Call the State Forest Office at (803) 896-8890 for details.
Educational programs are conducted by natural resource professionals at these shelters. Contact the State Forest office to schedule a program or reserve a facility.
For further information contact:
Harbison Environmental Education Forest
PO Box 21707
Columbia, SC 29210
Fax - 896-8896
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Forest Recreation / Harbison Trail Guide and Rules / Reference Resources / Forest Management