Hidden Gem: Carolina Bay Nature Preserve in Aiken, SC
Carolina Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best-kept little secrets in Aiken (in my mind!) Right across the street from the park everyone knows -- Odell Weeks / Virginia Acres -- it looks like a humble little swampy pond with a lovely little woods trail that wraps around it and an observation deck.
Why is it called a "bay"?
A Carolina Bay is actually distinct from a pond or a swamp, and it's kind of a mystery where they come from! They are natural, not man-made, and are classified as a freshwater wetland.
They are circular or oval in shape and usually isolated (rather than near a larger body of water like a lake or river). They fill with rainwater, but can dry up seasonally. While they are found only on the East Coast from coastal New York down to Northern Florida, there are thousands in the Carolinas.
Native Americans called them pocosins, translated to mean "a swamp on a hill."