The Sandhill Research and Education Center is a 600 acre facility on the northeast side of Columbia, South Carolina. The center is owned by Clemson University and is used as an agricultural research facility and lab. Its environmental conservation researchers develop best management practices for agriculture and forestry. The facility also provides garden information as part of its cooperative extension services.
While the research going on at the center is important, many visitors to Sandhill REC come for other reasons. The public is able to access the facilitys hiking trails and childrens garden, as well as purchase fresh produce at the seasonal farmers market. All of these activities are free to the public. Sandhill Research and Education Center also hosts several festivals and community events each year, including the long running Sparkleberry Country Fair in April.
Visitors will find two hiking trails at Sandhill REC. The Hardwoods Wetlands Trail begins at the lake. Heading downhill from the earthen dam, the trail crosses a stream via a wooden bridge. The 1 mile loop trail takes hikers through a mixed forest of pines and hardwoods. The forest floor is carpeted with ferns, which provide habitat for wildlife including deer and a variety of birds. The Conservation Station Interpretive Trail is a .5 mile loop trail. Visitors can enter the trail through a wooden door in the fence at the parking lot. Six educational kiosks highlight information on geology, forestry, soil, wildlife, water quality, and air quality. Hikers can walk out on a dock in the lake to view the lake habitat. They may see turtles, frogs, fish, snakes, and even alligators. Swimming and fishing in the lake are not permitted. The trails are open from 8am-dusk.
Children will love the Sandhill REC Childrens Garden. This area is actually several environmentally themed garden rooms. There is a Butterfly Garden, a Bird Garden, an Alphabet Garden, the Carolina Fence Garden, Mr. McGregors Garden, the Dinosaur Garden, a Rain Garden, and the Three Bears Homestead. The gardens are self guided and may be explored anytime during open hours. Visitors are welcome to bring lunch or a snack to enjoy at the picnic tables. Children will also want to play at the nearby Pooh Garden Playground.
The 2012 Sandhill Farmers Market will be open every Tuesday afternoon from May 1-November 20. Hours are 1-7pm. Visitors will be able to purchase the best in local produce, meat, eggs, butter, cheese, honey, baked goods, flowers, and plants. Many organic products will be available. Attendees will also be treated to live music and healthy lifestyle demonstrations.
Sandhill REC is located at 900 Clemson Road. Take I-20 East to Exit 80 and drive north for 2.5 miles. The facility is near the intersection of Two Notch Road (US Hwy 1).