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April 17, 2015Aiken County wildlife area opens to the public Saturdays in May

Aiken County’s Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve will be open to the public on Saturdays during the month of May (2, 9, 16, 23 and 30).

Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological Reserve consists of 10,600 acres owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. The area is located in Aiken County, along the Savannah River and south of the town of Jackson, off SC 125. Access is through the check station gate off Brown Road. Detailed maps/brochures of the area that include special rules and regulations can be requested in advance by e-mailing caudellm@dnr.sc.gov and providing a name and postal mailing address. Maps are also available at the check station where visitors sign in. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office located on the Savannah River Site can be reached at (803) 725-3663.

The area will be open for scouting, fishing and some other outdoor activities. All visitors must sign in before entering and sign out prior to leaving. No managed trails exist on the property. Bikes 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 repellant is recommended for all users, and recreationists should bring their own water. One port-o-let is located at the check station. May is rarely crowded on Crackerneck.

Although May is usually not conducive for scouting because hunt seasons are not imminent, hunters are still encouraged to make use of these open dates. They can be productive, especially for hunters planning on utilizing Crackerneck for the first time. Habitat changes are continually occurring due to timber harvests, prescribed burns, weather events and road construction.

Fishing will be allowed during this period. Limited bank fishing opportunities exist at Skinface Pond so small boats are recommended. The bass limit in Skinface is two fish per person per day with a 14-inch minimum, catfish are five fish per day and the bluegill limit of 30 fish is the same as state creel limits. In addition, a couple of swamp lakes are also accessible with small boats.

Great opportunities exist for birders to view spring 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 exists at present, but the 50-mile road system goes through scenic areas and is a suitable substitute. In addition, hikers can utilize 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, wild flowers, butterflies, 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 utilized 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.

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