Aiken County’s Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve will open to the public on the following Saturdays during September: Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.
Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve consists of 10,470 acres owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Crackerneck is in Aiken County along the Savannah River and lies south of the town of Jackson, off SC 125. Access is through the check station gate off Brown Road.
For a detailed map of the Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve including specific rules and regulations, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office in Aiken County at (803) 725-3663. You may also request the map by e-mail. Please include your name and postal mailing address and e-mail it to CaudellM@dnr.sc.gov. Maps are also available at the check station where visitors sign in.
Crackerneck will be open for scouting, fishing and some other outdoor activities during the five Saturdays in September. All visitors must sign in before entering and sign out prior to leaving. No managed trails exist on the property. Bicycles and horses are confined to the 50-mile road system and selected firebreaks. No weapons are allowed during this period. Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Insect repellent is recommended for all users, and recreationists should bring their own water. One portable bathroom is located at the check station.
Hunters are encouraged to use these open dates to scout the area prior to deer season. Habitat changes are continually occurring due to timber harvests, prescribed burns, weather events and road construction.
Fishing will be allowed although anglers should be aware that due to extremely low water, catch rates will be poor. Limited opportunities exist in Skinface Pond where the bass limit is two per person per day with a 14-inch minimum. A couple of swamp lakes are accessible with small boats.
No bicycle trails currently exist at Crackerneck. Bicycles are restricted to the 50-mile road system and selected firebreaks. Most roads are improved with crush-and-run, but offer relatively smooth riding.
Great opportunities exist for birders to view fall migrants and summer or permanent residents. Birding for terrestrial species is productive and easy due to the road system that traverses a variety of habitats. Wetland species occur, but are difficult to access and observe. DNR personnel at the gate can provide locations for species of interest.
No hiking trail currently exists, but the 50-mile road system goes through scenic areas and is a suitable substitute. In addition, hikers can use a 30-mile network of firebreaks that will get them off the beaten path. The more adventurous hikers can blaze their own trails just as hunters do. For anyone entering the Savannah River swamp, a compass and/or GPS unit are strongly recommended.
Many people just enjoy touring the road system to see what can be observed, whether it be wildlife, wildflowers, old home sites or cemeteries, and forestry and wildlife management practices. The entire 50-mile road system can be enjoyably ridden in under four hours. All roads, including jeep trails, are maintained in excellent condition.
Limited opportunities exist for canoeing in Skinface Pond or a few accessible swamp lakes that are picturesque. Alligators, snakes and a variety of water birds will be encountered. Access to Upper Three Runs Creek is prohibited for any reason.
Horses are limited to the 50-mile road system and selected firebreaks. While most roads are crush-and-run, they are well vegetated and horses seem to handle them well. Main roads have wide clearances so shoulders are an option. Firebreaks can be used when not planted for wildlife. Several places around Crackerneck are large enough to park several horse trailers.
Photographers have grand opportunities with wildlife, wildflowers, scenic vistas, and forestry and wildlife management practices, to name a few. However, photographers should have realistic expectations when trying to photograph wildlife. While abundant, wildlife at Crackerneck are truly wild and elusive. Stealth is necessary for success. Most animals are more active at dawn and dusk rather than mid-day.