After a lot of thought and ideas, I decided to locate this Virtual Cache along the Catawba River at Nation Ford. I wanted to have it in one of the Rock Hill Parks, as the City and Parks Division have been very good to the Geocaching Community. I also did not want this cache to be a quick P&G, but a challenge and an appreciation of historical and geographic events in this area.
When the early settlers to this country began to branch out into new areas to explore, move goods and create places to live, they followed existing Indian and animal trails. These trails and the new ones they created usually followed geographic features. Some examples would be rivers, mountain ranges, valleys and passes. Any geographic feature that would make the trip easier.
One such trail was Nation Ford
During the Jurassic Period about 200 million years ago, a huge land mass broke apart to form what would become the continents of North America and Africa. As the land pulled apart, large cracks in the crust of the earth began to fill with molten rock. (magma) As the magma cooled it hardened and formed large narrow sheets called “dikes”. The type of rock that composes these dikes is called diabase. Or referred to as a “Jurassic diabase dike”. Some are several miles in length.
A dike of this nature runs through York County, SC and crosses the Catawba River at Nation Ford. It is likely that the rigid diabase rock at the bottom of the Catawba River made the spot a popular place for “fording” or crossing the river.
A ford is a shallow place where a river or stream may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, as described above, in contrast to a low water crossing which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low. The names of many towns and villages are derived from the word “ford“, for example Oxford (a ford where oxen crossed the river)
Nation Ford, located near Rock Hill, South Carolina, was one of a series of natural fords on the Catawba River which provided safe crossing points for Native Americans. The presence of the ford led to development of trading paths which converged at this crossing point. The major trading path to the northern tribes led to Virginia and beyond. This path was being used by white traders by 1650. It was known by several names, including the “Occaneechi Path,” the “Catawba Path,” and on Mouzon’s map of 1775 as the “Indian Road.”
In the late 1840’s, plans began for the development of a railroad to connect Charlotte, NC, Columbia, SC and Augusta, Ga.
The route of the railroad south from Charlotte followed closely the old Nation Ford Road. The Catawba River would be one of the largest streams which would be crossed by the line. A trestle was constructed directly over the crossing at Nation Ford. The rail trestle and line were completed in 1852, creating a significant impact on the development patterns in the area. Rail depots were established five miles south of Nation Ford at Rock Hill and three miles north of the ford at Fort Mill. These depots became important trading centers for eastern York County, and these communities are today the centers for growth in the area.
The Civil War brought new importance to Nation Ford and the rail corridor which crossed at the site. The movement of troops, information, and supplies along the rail toward the Virginia front was critical for the Confederacy. Because the rail trestle on the Catawba was one of the longest spans on the line, it was vulnerable to enemy action. In the spring of 1865, as the Confederacy disintegrated, Union General George Stoneman assigned Colonel William J. Palmer’s cavalry forces to destroy railroad lines in the vicinity of Salisbury and Charlotte. On April 19, Palmer’s force of 400 made its way south from Charlotte toward the Catawba trestle. General Samuel W. Ferguson, in command of the Rebel Troop and the Ashley Dragoons of the Third South Carolina Cavalry, had been assigned to move to the area and counter the Federal threat. When Ferguson’s force reached Charlotte, he found that Palmer was already headed toward the Catawba.
The bridge was being defended by Home Guards. A small battery had been erected on the south side of the river. It is unclear whether this position had been established previously by the Home Guards or hastily erected by Palmer’s men. A skirmish ensued, and Palmer easily overcame the Home Guards. At some point during the action, the trestle was set ablaze. Ferguson’s men reached the area too late to save the trestle. The action at Nation Ford on April 19, 1865 was significant. The loss of the trestle deprived the Confederacy of a vital link in its supply lines. A few days after this action, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the remnants of his Cabinet crossed the river at Nation Ford on April 27 on their flight to the southwest. The stone pillars which supported the trestle at Nation Ford were used in the reconstruction of the rail span following the war. The trestle was destroyed in a flood on the Catawba in July 1916. It was again rebuilt on the original stone pillars.
The present railroad bridge crosses at Nation Ford because the rocky shoal or diabase dike provides a natural geological foundation for the trestle. Engineers constructed the trestle directly on top of the rock base of the original ford.
To receive credit for this Virtual cache, you must visit the actual site of Nation Ford crossing.
Your adventure starts at the parking coordinates which would be in the parking area of Rock Hill’s new River Walk Trail. From there you will walk or bike 2 1/2 miles to the listed coordinates. This is a very pleasant walk on a paved path. Please remember and consider this cache is listed as “handicap” accessible but is also 5 miles round trip. Access is also possible by kayak or canoe, however you will not be able to answer the questions without actually walking the trail. Use caution and follow river rules and common boating sense. Path is subject to flooding. Do not attempt with high water conditions.
GZ must be accessed from the north starting at the parking coordinates by the pump house. If you come from the south you will not be able to find the answers to the questions. Please follow all River Walk Trail rules and regulations. Do not try to access this cache by bushwhacking or from any other direction. Use trail only. Stay well clear of the railroad----you have no need to be anywhere near the right of way. There is no cache container or log to sign, but you must visit the site and submit to me, the answers to the questions below.
The following must be completed and answers emailed to me for credit.
1. How many wooden bridges do you cross on the hike to GZ?
2. How many swings do you pass?
3. How many free standing columns support the railroad bridge?
4. How many feet above sea level is the river at GZ? (approximate)
Have fun, be safe, post pictures if you can and favorite points are appreciated.
There are several more caches in the River Park system for your enjoyment.
Thank you to the Submission form to list Nation Ford to the National Register of Historic Places, the Department of Interior, the City of Rock Hill, York County and Wikipedia for information used in publishing this Virtual cache.
FTF WooHoo I am so happy that my friend and long time geocaching buddy, Beemerdon, earned FTF honors on this special Virtual Cache. I was quite sure that this type of cache was right up his alley and not surprised he was the first one there-----a challenge, interesting, educational, FTF available and could involve a bike. PERFECT! Thanks for the favorite point and starting this one off to a great start. apoolman Pathtag on the way.
Please leave the following text at the bottom of the page, so cache finders understand the Virtual Reward project.
Virtual Reward - 2017/2018
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.