Despite limited access, the Broad River in western York County is used nearly every day by people who fish, hunt, kayak or just want to absorb nature.
So far, the relatively limited access has helped preserve the Broad River. But use of the river is likely to increase because the state Department of Natural Resources and York County officials are moving forward with plans to build a boat ramp just north of Hickory Grove Road. The ramp would be built on land commonly called Worth Mountain.
Plans are in the preliminary stages, but the York County Council has endorsed an agreement with the state for building the ramp. Funding – not to exceed $750,000 – would come from the state. York County would help maintain the site.
Property owners along the river and others who use it said the boat ramp could be a mixed blessing. With more access comes more people. But will the newcomers care about the river as much as current users do?
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From N.C. to Columbia
The Broad River runs 150 miles from the mountains in Buncombe County in North Carolina to Columbia, where it merges with the Saluda River to form the Congaree River.
The section of the Broad from the 99 Island Dam in Cherokee County to the confluence with the Pacolet River in Spartanburg County was named a state scenic river in 1991. A public access is located at 99 Island Dam.
There are several unofficial access points, including one at the S.C. 211 bridge in York County, commonly called the Irene Bridge. Some people also access the river from private property, often without permission. Property owners along the river have posted "no trespassing" signs and on their properties and are have them enforced.
The river’s depth varies by season and by whether Duke Energy is generating hydroelectric power upstream.
At times, “a frog could walk across the river and not get wet,” said Nancy Cornwell-Daves of York County, who lives near the river and operates two farms.
A benefit of the proposed boat ramp is that people could put in at 99 Island Dam, which is about seven miles south of Blacksburg, and exit in York County. The nearest public access point south of 99 Island Dam is at Lockhart in Union County, 20 miles downstream.
Area sportsmen have considered for years how best to use Worth Mountain, said Hiram Hutchison of Rock Hill.
Harry Dalton of Rock Hill helped preserve Worth Mountain by purchasing the property from Strom Thurmond’s family. Dalton purchased the land when York County couldn’t meet the Thurmond family’s price.
While touring the land on a 4-wheeler, Dalton was overwhelmed by its pristine nature.
“It was beautiful and quiet, except for the live turkeys,” Dalton said. “This could be the Grand Central Park of York County.”
Dalton said putting in a boat ramp was one reason he purchased the 1,700-acre property for about $900 an acre. Dalton said he made some minor improvements to the land, adding trails and a lake. He also considered putting in a boat ramp, but it was too costly to develop a gravel road to the river.
Dalton sold the property to York County at the same price he bought it, protecting its future use with a conservation easement. The property is now the Worth Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
“We’ve been trying to get good access to the river for 10 to 15 years,” Hutchison said. “It’s a beautiful river.”
“It is a beautiful place, I’d like to keep it that way,” she said.
She understands the river is open to the public, but “we want responsible people” to use the Broad River. She wants users to have the same passion as the landowners who understand the “necessity of taking care of the Broad River, taking care of it for a lifetime.”