Natural State - Safety Disclaimer

Please note that the Artists featured on A Natural State are trained professionals. Many of the artists use equipment that would not be considered safe except in the hands of trained, experienced individuals. Do not attempt to do these projects without the supervision or assistance of a parent or teacher.

Also, in many cases these artists have obtained special permits allowing them to gather materials in State Parks or National Forests. Be sure to obtain all of the necessary permissions before you consider removing any items from National Forests or State Parks.


What is a National Forest?

A national forest is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, a federal agency created in 1905 to manage the public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service also is the largest forest research organization in the world and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies.

South Carolina has two national forests-the Francis Marion in the Lowcountry and the Sumter in the midlands and upstate. The natural resources on these lands are some of the state's greatest assets and have major economic, environmental, and social significance for all South Carolinians.

National forests are often confused with national parks or state forests or parks-but the mission of the Forest Service, set by the U.S. Congress, is different from these other organizations. The Forest Service manages national forests for multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. For example, timber is sold and hunting is allowed in national forests, while neither is allowed in national parks. Our mission is, "Caring for the land and serving people."

National forests are also encompass 191 million acres of land nationally-8.5 percent of the total land area in the United States, or an area equivalent to the size of Texas. In South Carolina, about 2.5 million people visit the 618,000 acres of national forest land each year. Visitors engage in a variety of activities-backpacking in remote, unroaded wilderness areas, riding the rapids of a pre-eminent whitewater river, riding horses or all-terrain vehicles on trails, hunting for deer or turkey, camping, fishing, and swimming.

If you are interested in learning more about the USDA Forest Service, please stop by or see our website at Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests (


Staying Safe in the Forest

People use trails for various reasons -- to experience nature, view historical sites, or simply enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are hiking, backpacking, fishing, camping, 4-wheeling or horseback riding, these tips can make your recreational experience in the national forests safe, exciting, and memorable.


  • Contact local land managers for maps, trail conditions, weather, river levels, and regulations concerning permits, party size, and closures.
  • Fill your car with gasoline.
  • Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return.
  • Leave a copy of your trip plan with family and friends with information on how to contact you.
  • Plan your clothing for the weather.
  • During hunting seasons, wear blaze orange whether or not you are hunting.
  • Travel with a companion.


If you get lost on a trail, try to backtrack on the trail until you get your bearings. If you are still lost, stay put. A stationary person is much easier to find than someone who is roaming. If you have a cell phone, try using it. As a last resort, follow a utility or railroad corridor, drain or stream downhill. These often lead to a trail, road, or community. Whatever you do, do not walk on railroad tracks!


  • Learn basic first aid.
  • Make alternate plans in case of bad weather.
  • Take precautions against heat exhaustion and heatstroke during the summer months.
  • Pack drinking water, maps, sunscreen, insect repellant, compass, raincoat, and a first-aid kit. Boil all water unless you brought it yourself.
  • Do not allow small children to wander.
  • Familiarize yourself with potential hazards such as dangerous animals and poisonous snakes, insects, and plants.
  • Keep high-energy food such as hard candy, chocolate, or dried fruit handy.
  • Don't rely on your cell phone. There is minimal cell coverage in national forests

Be mindful of private property and closed roads.

If you must cross private property, ask permission and be alert to unknown hazards. Don't block closed gates; access may be needed for fire-fighting activities.


Natural Hazards


Most snakes in South Carolina are not poisonous. Six poisonous snakes are found in South Carolina: coral, cottonmouth, timber rattler, eastern diamondback rattler, pigmy rattler, and the copperhead. All have triangular-shaped heads and slit-shaped pupils. Of course, the best way to deal with an encounter with a snake is to not get close enough to see its pupils!

Most snakes in South Carolina are not poisonous. Six poisonous snakes are found in South Carolina: coral, cottonmouth, timber rattler, eastern diamondback rattler, pigmy rattler, and the copperhead. All have triangular-shaped heads and slit-shaped pupils. Of course, the best way to deal with an encounter with a snake is to not get close enough to see its pupils! Leave snakes alone. Be careful when walking in tall grass or other places where you cannot see your feet.

Never reach under or sit on top of rocks or logs without looking first. Snakes regular their body temperature by lying in either shady or sunny spots. If it's hot, they're in the shade. If it's cold, they're usually not very active but could be sunning themselves on rocks.


This plant makes most people break out in an itchy rash. The oils on this plant can cause an allergic reaction, with or without leaves. It is active in all seasons. The vine has roots, or little hairs on it, throughout the year. This, and the fact that it has three leaves, is an easy way to identify the plant. Remember, "Leaves of three, let it be!"


Ticks and chiggers are common insects found in the woods. Ticks attach themselves to your body and can transmit diseases. If you find one on you, gently pull it off, record the date on your calendar, and notify your doctor. Chiggers, also known as redbugs, cause you to itch and are more of an irritant than a danger. Avoid sitting in grasses and directly on the forest floor, specially in pine needles.


Feeding wildlife causes dependence on campers, an increase in camper disturbance and interaction, and can make wildlife more aggressive. It is always good to store food in the trunk if you are car-camping or gone for the day, so odors do not attract wildlife. While staying overnight in the forest, store food, drinks, and items such as toothpaste and chap stick in bear-proof containers away from your tent, hanging from a branch of a tree. Observe wildlife only from a distance. Live animals, alligators, snakes, bears, and raccoons do visit developed recreation sites.

If you are interested in learning more about the USDA Forest Service, please stop by or see our web site at Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests. 


Conservation Guidelines

Nature provides materials unequaled in beauty and character. Though often plentiful, resources such as wood, stone, clay, vines, pine needles, and leaves are all parts of wildlife habitat and ecosystems. Before collecting materials please consider the following:


Many parks do not allow any collection of natural materials. Some parks allow limited collection, or provide permits for special projects or groups. Check park guidelines before collecting any natural materials! If exploring private property, make sure you have permission from the landowner.


The earth has the capacity to provide natural resources only if we balance human consumption with the needs of the environment. When you take something from nature, how might you give something back in return? Understand why and how we manage natural areas for future generations.


In South Carolina, pine needles and kudzu vines are abundant while white cedar trees and sweetgrass are limited. Consider whether a resource is replenished in abundance or limited in its range and availability. Never collect more than you need. Never use endangered or threatened species of plants.


Wildlife habitat is everywhere. A rotten log may be home to lizards, snakes and thousands of insects, and a single tree may provide food for hundreds of birds and mammals. When you collect materials, remember that you are always in someone’s backyard. Don’t remove moss or bark from trees, disrupt bird nests, or expose ground to erosion.


Hikers and campers can lessen their impact on the environment by staying on the trail, packing out what they pack in, and being considerate of other hikers’ need for peace and quiet.  

The following Websites provide information and educational materials about conservation and preservation:

USDA Forest Service Conservation Education:


Contact Information

Forest Supervisor - USDA Forest Service

4931 Broad River Road

Columbia, SC 29212-3530

(803) 561-4000 Fax: (803) 561-4004

TDD:(803) 561-4023


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Natural State