Some park units are not on the way to anything. You just have to make them a destination. Obviously that’s true of the large iconic parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can spend weeks there but it’s also true of Ninety Six National Historic Site in (you guessed it), Ninety Six, South Carolina.
As part of my project to visit every national park units in the Southeast, I traveled over two hours from Asheville to the site. Every unit has a “first”. Ninety Six is the site of the first significant land battle in the South during the Revolutionary War. It happened on November 19, 1775.
That by itself might not have made it a national park site. But the town of Ninety Six was an important trading post for Cherokees and settlers, between Charleston and the Cherokee town of Keowee, about 96 miles away. That is the best theory of how the area got its name.
But the bigger event occurred in the spring of 1781, while Loyalists (forces loyal to Britain) were garrisoned in the town. They built a 8-point Star Fort, a master of British military engineering. The Patriots built their own tunnels and in June of that year, launched an attack. The Patriots didn’t do too well and slipped away. The Loyalists burned the town and also moved away.
So what can you actually see?
On a one-mile paved walk, you’ll see the remains of the fort. There’s actually quite a lot of it left. Just as interesting is the original Charleston Road (see above), part of a hiking trail. The park service has outlined the boundaries of the original town of Ninety Six; it was awfully small. I also walked the Gouedy Trail, site of a major trading post.
Today, two groups of school children visited the park. I found them at the Logan House, a wooden structure moved here as an typical settlers house in the 1700s. It was used as the park’s first visitor center.
After visiting this park, I’ve done 44 parks out of 68 and finished all the parks in South Carolina. I plan to finish visiting them all by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Most of the remaining ones will be “destinations”.