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Sassafras Mountain tower construction to begin Monday after Thanksgiving November 16, 2017

The long-awaited construction of an observation tower on Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest point, is set to begin on Nov. 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

A $1.1 million bid on the Sassafras Mountain observation tower project has been accepted from Lazer Construction of Anderson, the general contractor for the project. The summit of Sassafras Mountain will be closed once construction begins, and a chain-link fence will be erected around the top of the mountain for safety and security reasons during construction. The Foothills Trail, which travels to the Sassafras summit, will be diverted away from the mountaintop while the tower is being built.

The breathtaking view from Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest point at 3,553 feet, is like no other. Construction on the long-awaited observation tower on the Sassafras summit gets underway on Nov. 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving. (Photo by Bill Tynan)

The breathtaking view from Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest point at 3,553 feet, is like no other. Construction on the long-awaited observation tower on the Sassafras summit gets underway on Nov. 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving. (Photo by Bill Tynan)

The finish date on the observation tower project could be as early as May 2018, but completion depends on the cooperation of weather. Since the top of Sassafras is the highest point in the state at 3,553 feet, winter weather extremes include ice, snow and powerful winds, which would delay construction.

A construction superintendent will be staying on site at the top of Sassafras until the project is complete. Funding for the first phase of construction on the observation tower atop Sassafras Mountain has come from a variety of sources, including Duke Energy, the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund and from hundreds of private supporters through commemorative brick sales. The first phase is scheduled to include the observation tower at the summit of the mountain, a hiking access trail and restrooms.

The current viewing platform on the west side of Sassafras, put in place by Clemson University architectural students, will remain open for the time being, along with the parking lot next to the platform. The overlook provides a view primarily to the west and south, looking out onto the mountains of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Phase two of the Sassafras project, which will require additional funding, is scheduled to include a picnic area, accessory trails, informational kiosks and improvements to the parking lot.

Poised on the South Carolina and North Carolina border, Sassafras Mountain is about 20 miles north of Pickens. It sits on the Eastern Continental Divide, is the tri-point of three distinct watersheds, and is home to the Foothills Trail, a 77-mile footpath between Table Rock and Oconee state parks. The Palmetto Trail, which will one day link the South Carolina mountains to the sea in a continuous trail of 500 miles, also is on the flanks of Sassafras Mountain.

Sassafras Mountain is part of the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges, managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Sassafras Mountain is listed as a tourist destination by Pickens County. For more information, visit http://www.visitpickenscounty.com/vendor/124/sassafras-mountain/.


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