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EXIT 5 I-95 S in Hardeeville, to Switzerland, South Carolina and Barnwell SC
“Welcome to Switzerland, South Carolina, capital of the so-called “Low Country”, full of steamy hot bogs and swamps, named for a land of Alpine snow clad peaks and clearly — CLEARLY- a place of weird inversions.
On your right you will observe a looming lumber mill owned by Swiss Kronos, which makes laminate wood— used in floors and cabinetry. You cannot pop in for a sample because it is just a factory. However, that said you may want to get right to exit since The Red Piano Art Gallery is indeed off the next exit and it displays beautiful samples of the local and unique art forms.
About being named for frigid Switzerland; the first Europeans in this region were surprisingly folks for whom high country had been the norm. They were Swiss Protestants. Most Swiss came here by the first half of the 1700’s seeking religious liberties not allowed at home where Catholics persecuted the Protestant minority.
Then in the last century, the area became renowned for its unique timber operations.
Unique to the area is the swamp logging procedure, which makes operations far more interesting than standard logging. Folks here dive for dollars --literally.
Across the low country of South Carolina, pine and cypress were harvested into the late 1800’s. Most logs were lashed together with metal "spike dogs" and floated downstream to mills. Inevitably, many of the timbers broke loose and tumbled to river bottoms.
Fast forward 100 years. These sunken waterlogged gems are now perfectly preserved specimens prized for milling into tables, bed frames, and flooring. That’s because the special properties of nearby Rivers turn old logs into sustained jewels.
You are crossing numerous so called "black water" rivers — the color of black tea because of tannins released by rotting vegetation. Tannins also perfectly preserve the wood. The logs spend generations in waters depleted of oxygen that would normally cause decay. Instead it preserves and beautifies mature wood. The century old sunken black stained product is valuable to make nuanced exposed wood furniture such as dining tables, saloon bars, even chess tables.
Unlike anywhere else in the world, lumberjacks in Switzerland South Carolina must harvest their product from the bottom of the rivers, and to do so they wear scuba gear not overalls. They need scuba certificates as much as chainsaws.
Salvaged from the alligator and snake infested swamps, that old wood becomes very valuable lumber. Maybe that is where the term “sink wood” comes from.
Most surprising, here in the Carolina Lowlands renown for Swiss lumber jacks, and filled with weird inversions, to harvest tall timber here, lumber jacks need to toss the chain saw and take off their clothes. Instead they don scuba gear and dig in the mud. Diving for dollars! What could be more inverted than that?”
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