Sometimes, when I need a little distraction, I play the following game with myself: First, open Google maps on my phone, and scroll around until I find an area of the map covered in green. Second, look for the little pine tree emoji that designates that green spot as a park. Lastly, write down that location in a small notebook I have, under the “places to visit” list. (I assume this is exactly how Lewis & Clark discovered the West). And that’s the long story short of how we wound up at Heritage Shores Nature Preserve in North Myrtle Beach, SC, on a random Saturday afternoon in February.
Truth be told, on this morning we were supposed to adventure in a different location. Geoff was registered to run a trail race about an hour South. But the 5 am alarm clock went off, bed was comfortable, and a laundry list of house and work chores that had to be completed that morning took precedent to running. Self employed life: you make your own schedule, but on the other hand, work never ever stops. So we hit snooze, got up an hour later, and got to work. (Sorry Chad.)
The sun was shining, the cloudless sky piercingly blue, and despite only being 37 degrees (yeah, that’s cold for us now), I absolutely had to get outside. I currently have a wicked case of wanderlust, paired with an abysmal bout of seasonal affective disorder. My soul was screaming to get outside and away from responsibilities – even if for only an hour or two.
And that’s when I remembered a little green spot on the map that I had never visited. So after a few hours of work, Geoff and I jumped in the car, and headed North.
Heritage Shores Nature Preserve
At almost at the very North end of North Ocean Boulevard in the Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, you’ll find Heritage Shores Nature Preserve. The story behind this place is actually quite refreshing, especially for this area. In the late 1990’s some local developers wanted to build a bridge that would hinder access to the creeks and canals of the estuary, where the preserve stands now. Local citizens banded together, requesting legal assistance from the non-profit South Carolina Conservation League, South Carolina Environmental Law Project, and the National Sierra Club, to try and preserve this piece of land.
Long story short, the City of North Myrtle Beach cooperated, acquiring a number of lots through purchases and donations. Eventually funding was approved ti preserve this section of land. Between 2006 and 2007 Heritage Shores Nature Preserve was constructed and opened to the public.
Technically located on an island that extends into the Cherry Grove Marsh, the preserve was, well, preserved in it’s most natural state. The park features 7 acres of walking path, elevated boardwalks, and observation docks that wind through the marshes and wetlands of the estuary. If you’re more of the mileage rather than acreage type, you’re looking at less than a mile hike. This is not the place to go for a long workout (which, may or may not be a positive thing.)
And, unlike a number of the other Grand Strand area places I’ve mentioned on this blog, this is also not the kind of place to go to “forget” you’re in the middle of a busy, touristy, beach town. No, our entire visit was filled with the background noise of construction and maintenance on local beach houses.
BUT…Heritage Shores Nature Preserve was a beautiful place to visit none the less. While it may not be a place I foresee frequenting (it was a 38 minute drive from my house), it was absolutely worth the trip, at least once. Here’s why:
We Learned New Stuff
…Like the fact that Kingfishers whip their prey back and forth, essentially beating them to death, before eating. Or that pelicans can live for over thirty years. And did you know that raccoons wash their food before they eat it? Or that the prickly pear cactus is actually edible?
I can’t retain the name of someone I’ve met twice in a row, or remember what I had for lunch yesterday. But I’ll be damned if I don’t absorb science facts like a sponge, keeping them in storage in the back of my mind just ready for my Jeopardy (or more likely, trivia night at some bar) debut.
Heritage Shores Nature Preserve is considered an “interpretive trail”, and as such, has over 40 learning stations spread throughout the park. You’ll learn about the ecosystem as a whole, from animals and birds, to native plants, and even how the tides work.
I love trails the way most people love coffee. I need them everyday, and I simply can’t get enough. Short trails, long trails, technical trails, smooth trails, all of them awaken my soul and get me excited about life (just like caffeine). The trails at Heritage Shores Nature Preserve are flat, sandy, and easily traversed.
The main trail itself is a big loop, however, there are a few intersections where you can cross over via various bridges and docks. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost: every intersection is well marked, and just like a shopping mall, all point towards the exits.
The trail is only one mile long, but there’s no rush to complete it. In fact, it appears that Heritage Shores Nature Preserve wants you to sit and stay for a while, as there are two separate picnic shelters, and a half dozen benches scattered throughout the one mile trail.
Birds, Birds, Birds.
One day I’ll get a fancy bird-nerd camera. But until then you’re going to have to use your imagination when I tell you that we saw:
- A Great Blue Heron
- Wood Storks
- Hooded Mergansers
- Great Egrets
- Countless song birds
Rumor has it the area also homes Osprey, Barred Owls, the Kingfisher I really wanted to see, and other birds native to the area.
But, birds aren’t the only thing you’ll see. Apparently deer, raccoons, foxes, and squirrels reside on the preserve. And let’s not forget the fiddler crabs: the holes to their burrows littered the trail. And, because the preserve is on an island a short distance from the Atlantic ocean, numerous fish and even bottlenose dolphins have been spotted from the docks.
After completing the entire loop, and reading all forty interpretive signs, Geoff and I made the walk back to our car. We had officially checked Heritage Shores Nature Preserve off of my “green places I found on google” list. And more importantly, I quelled the wanderlust monster, at least for the afternoon.
Heritage Shores Nature Preserve – Know Before You Go:
If you are in the North Myrtle Beach end of the Grand Strand, I’d highly recommend stopping by for a visit. Here’s what you need to know before you go:
- The physical address to type into your GPS is:
5611 Heritage Drive, North Myrtle Beach, SC
- Parking for the preserve is located at 53rd Avenue north (next to the Cherry Grove Park and Boat Ramp). The parking lot is clearly marked. It’s about a four block walk to the preserve entrance.
- Restrooms are available at Cherry Grove Park/Boat Ramp.
- Know that there is a possibility that trails can and will flood with the incoming tide. Depending on what time of day you go, prepare to get your feet wet.
- Dogs are allowed at the Preserve, but must be leashed
- Fishing is prohibited in the park