A Favorite Place

Tom Poland

Posted 5/23/23

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Each May-June these floral queens wait at three colonies, two in South Carolina, one in Georgia. All worth the drive. (Photo by Tom Poland)

Each spring I write of three places, three beautiful places where colonies of rocky shoals spider lilies bloom. One is quite accessible; one is perhaps the world’s largest colony, and the other, though difficult to access, holds childhood memories.

Easy to access and as lovely as can be is the colony at Stevens Creek in McCormick, South Carolina. Here, you can lean over and inhale a bloom’s subtle lemony-sweet fragrance and see the bloom’s mint green core. The sound of whitewater adds serenity to the setting. Steal up to the creek quietly and you may catch a glimpse of great blue herons and a hawk or two. An old gristmill and an old tin chalet perched on a hillside provide additional interest. I think of this as the easy colony to visit.

Depending on where you set out from, the colony at Chester County’s Landsford Canal State Park is a bit of a haul. Not far from the Queen City translates into a lot of visitors. When you get there, the crowds that descend from Charlotte make parking a bit of a task. Then you have a scenic but long walk to the viewing platform where you behold never-ending shoals lilies. The ruins of an old canal add to the overall experience.

Over in Georgia, the Broad River’s Anthony Shoals hosts a large colony of lilies that bloom in one of the region’s wilder settings. My mother grew up just minutes from the shoals. Childhood memories live here. Each May-June I pilgrimage to Anthony Shoals where Mom’s family “laid by” when the crops were done.

On Georgia Highway 79 I turn left at Thankful Baptist Church and make my way to Anthony Shoals Road. I negotiate the long, near third-world dirt road at whose end I park and descend a steep bluff to where the rocky shoals spider lilies stage a May-June spectacle.

These shoals have long lived within me. Mom took me to the shoals as a boy where her brothers caught and fried fish. I remember rock-studded waters and Uncle Carroll scouring a cast iron frying pan with sand until it shone like silver. Then life happened, and for many a year I assumed Clarks Hill Lake had drowned Anthony Shoals. That confused me. Clarks Hill Dam was completed in 1954, but the reservoir filled in 1951-52. How can this be? I should have been too young to remember the place. Still, I had this memory. I couldn’t square things. Surely water had covered Anthony Shoals after that fish fry, but, no, I was mistaken.

The Broad River’s Anthony Shoals and its billowing river garden of rocky shoals spider lilies lived still. Several times each spring I descend that steep bluff and listen. Faint and from afar, I hear Earth’s finest white noise. Down closer I go. The Broad River, a waterfall turned sideways, froths and foams over and around rocks. Milky-white filigrees murmur and beget inner peace as no other sound can. Peering through trees I see lustrous green stalks topped by snow-white blooms bobbing and weaving. Ballerinas in white waltz to a wild river song as ospreys cry and dive for fish. Many great blue herons stalk the rocky shallows for fish.

Shoals lilies, you should know, prefer rocky rivers, plummeting elevation, and clean, free-flowing water. That translates to no dams. To see Anthony Shoals and its lilies is to see the Piedmont as it was before the big dams rose. When I’m there I have no sadness. I don’t think of traffic jams, crime, and scandals. I watch the osprey and shoals lilies and let out a long sigh that such wilderness remains and, in fact, is tied to my mother’s people. So, as you easily guess is my favorite of the three colonies is Anthony Shoals. If you’ve not seen a colony then plan to; it’s a majestic spectacle.

Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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