Turtles of Upstate SC

Scenic Highway 11 is a famous route for scenic view enthusiasts and for no small reason. An off-the beaten interstate path, this 120 mile stretch of roadway travels similarly to I-85 crossing the Upstate from just south of Charlotte, NC to the north Georgia border. The route was once known as “Cherokee Path” or “Keowee Path” due to its heavy use by Cherokees during Colonial times.

Traveling throughout the upstate along the NC border provides you with not only beautiful views of Lake Keowee, Table Rock, and other stunning landscapes, but also some glimpses of the natural inhabitants of the area. Always be on the lookout for any deer that may want to cross your path during any portion of this route, as it stretches through densely populated deer habitats, but also the occasional bear or two may traverse along your route.  And lest we forget to mention the many turkeys that can be spotted.

Recently, a morning’s commute was delayed for a rather large turtle crossing Highway 11 near the bridge that spans Lake Keowee. He (well, honestly we didn’t stop to inspect but for ease of reference, we shall refer to the turtle as “he”!) prompted a look into what turtles call this location home.

Did you know that there are 13 species of native turtles to South Carolina? That may make you look a little closer at these little creatures next time you spot one!  Perhaps most commonly seen crossing the roads of Upstate South Carolina are the box turtles.

These little fellas have a rounded, high shell with the carapace pattern and reach about 4 to 6 inches in length.  But there are also some larger family members that can be a little more, ahem, defensive, such as the common snapping turtle for instance.  This is most likely the one stopping traffic one sunny morning when crossing Highway 11.  These large turtles range from 8 to 14 inches although some have been found upwards of 18 inches in length!  As a highly aquatic reptile, they are rarely seen basking.  Although mostly docile when in the water, the common snapping turtle will strike when on land if threatened or cornered so please only observe from a safe distance if you do happen to spot one!

Turtles are an integral part of our local ecosystem here in the Update. In October of last year, state lawmakers signed a bill into law which bans the commercial trade of these native turtles in our state.  They are wonderful to watch and enjoy but should be left to live in their natural habitat. So if your child spots a turtle on one of our many beautiful trails weaving through the Upstate, take some pics, but leave it be.