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Photo © Bill Hilton Jr.

Aerial view looking north up the Catawba River
toward the Bowater pulp and paper mill.

Hilton Pond itself--and another larger pond just downstream and partially on the property at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History--was installed in about 1960 by the Soil Conservation Service to retard erosion and provide water for livestock. At one time the ponds apparently were spring-fed, but the spring--which arises on adjoining property--has become clogged. Thus, rainwater and runoff are the principal sources of water for both ponds.

With tongue partially in-cheek, we refer to Hilton Pond as the "York County headwaters of the Catawba River," since it flows into Langham Branch and then to Fishing Creek, which enters the Catawba at Great Falls. Hilton Pond Center is also on the "York County Continental Divide," since everything just west of the site flows into the Broad River basin, while tributaries on and east of the property eventually make it to the Catawba.

Hilton Pond Center executive director Bill Hilton Jr. has long been a vocal advocate of protecting the Catawba River watershed. As conservation chair of Henry's Knob Group of the Sierra Club in the early 1990s, he was perhaps the first conservationist to call for protection of the 40-mile free-flowing South Carolina stretch of the Catawba between the dams at Rock Hill and Great Falls, since designated as a state scenic river. Hilton serves on river-related committees or panels and gives public lectures dedicated to river conservation (see "Critters of the Catawba: Secrets of a Piedmont River").

For his essay about the Catawba, see "A Naturalist's View of Our Piedmont River."

You may also wish to view our on-site information about Catawba Indians and their pottery.

Photo © Christy Queen (used by permission)

Limpkins, Aramus guarauna, are long-legged wading birds normally restricted to marshes and wooded swamps in Florida, Cuba, and Jamaica. That's why Bill Stokes, a veteran kayaker intimately familiar with the lower Catawba River, was startled to see one in August 2005 about a mile up Cane Creek, one of the river's tributaries in Lancaster County SC. Prior to 2000, there were only three South Carolina records for this bird--all from the Lowcountry--but in 2001 and 2002 five more were seen in the state's Coastal Plain, possibly due to a severe drought in Florida's Everglades during those years. The Limpkin spotted by Stokes from his kayak is the FIRST Carolina Piedmont record ever verified for the species.

The Limpkin was initially observed 7 Aug 2005 and was resighted on 12 and 14 Aug. On the latter date it was photographed by Christy Queen, whose image appears above. The bird was seen by several observers who were able to get quite close via kayaks and canoes, from which they watched the Limpkin feed on snails and clams near the water's edge.

The Katawba Valley Land Trust has a conservation easement on the land bordering the creek where the Limpkin was observed--certainly a great testimony for why the banks of the Catawba River and its tributaries should be protected from cutting and development. Without this riparian habitat, the out-of-range Limpkin might never have survived after arriving in South Carolina from its breeding area in Florida.

For information about previous South Carolina records for Limpkins, see the Web site for the Carolina Bird Club, specifically at Recent Limpkin Records from South Carolina. See also Dan Huntley's article on Long beak. Long legs. Long way from home from the 19 Aug 2005 edition of The Charlotte Observer.

Please return to this page to check for additional information that will be added about the Catawba River watershed.


Catawba Culture Preservation Project

Catawba Riverkeeper/Catawba River Foundation

Catawba River Corridor Plan

Checklist of Animals & Plants of
South Carolina's Catawba River Corridor

Katawba Valley Land Trust

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.

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