Statewide tour explores South Carolina's natural wonders

Duke Energy sponsors the SC7 Expedition to help people appreciate and protect the state’s environment, from the mountains to the sea

Adventurers hiking in Table Rock State Park in South Carolina this humid morning were smiling through their sweat – they were on a mission.

As part of the South Carolina 7 Expedition (SC7), they were determined to achieve the expedition’s goal to view all seven of South Carolina’s natural wonders during July.

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SC7 founder Tom Mullikin at Table Rock State Park.

Rather than viewing far-away wonders through a screen, SC7 shows South Carolinians there is beauty right in their backyard. The monthlong expedition, founded in 2019 by world traveler Tom Mullikin, follows the Palmetto Trail from the Upstate in the northwest of the state to the Lowcountry on the coast, with stops including the Chattooga River and Congaree National Park.

As the lead sponsor of the 2023 expedition, Duke Energy is building on its legacy of environmental stewardship through conservation, education and economic development.

Duke Energy was responsible for more than $6.1 million in charitable contributions in South Carolina in 2022, supporting organizations that reduce hunger, promote education, the environment and safety, and other issues.

“We have dispelled this narrative that you have to choose between economic and environmental sustainability,” Mullikin said. “The truth is, if you don’t have environmental sustainability, you won’t have economic sustainability. What Duke Energy has done for generations is help power this sustainable economic engine that we see here in South Carolina.”

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Along the hiking trail at Table Rock Mountain north of Greenville.

Day six of the expedition showcased Lake Jocassee, a natural wonder created by Duke Energy to generate electricity. Jocassee Pumped Storage Facility in Pickens County began operating in 1973. It also is the carbon-free fuel for the “marvel in the mountain,” Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station. In service since 1991, the pumped storage operation is the largest battery on the Duke Energy system.

Mullikin described Jocassee as a center of economic advancement and environmental conservation. As participants glided over the crystal blue lake and swam up to waterfalls, they could see why.

“Why do people move to South Carolina?” asked Carlton Owen, an expedition participant. “It’s not for parking lots and it’s sure not for our roads. They come for the beautiful environment, affordable housing, good jobs and good education.”

Though the expedition showcases South Carolina’s natural beauty, it also highlights work that needs to be done in trash pickup and prevention. Throughout SC7, participants collected litter along the trail.

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Duke Energy South Carolina President Mike Callahan doing his part during the litter cleanup campaign.

To address this issue, Duke Energy sponsored the statewide #PickItPostIt litter cleanup campaign with SC7. This social media campaign donated $50,000 to the anti-litter organization PalmettoPride.

“Duke Energy is committed to some of the most ambitious sustainability goals in our industry,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina president. “We believe it’s equally important to achieve these goals in our local communities. Initiatives like SC7 and #PickItPostIt get our communities excited about environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.”

Participants collected litter along the Capital City Passage in Columbia. Many of the volunteers that day were Duke Energy employees and retirees. This SC7 and PalmettoPride event was the culmination of the #PickItPostIt campaign.

“Litter prevention is as much an economic development issue as it is community safety and quality of life,” said Sarah Lyles, executive director of PalmettoPride. “Having industry leaders like Duke Energy stand against litter makes a real impact.”

In the Midlands and Lowcountry, SC7 members pass through the Edisto and Black rivers while bringing awareness to environmental projects like Bee Cause in Charleston and Coastal Carolina’s Smart Reef. With smiles and sweat on their faces, expedition members and Duke Energy employees keep their eyes fixed on greater goals: conservation and environmental stewardship.

What are the seven natural wonders of South Carolina?

  • Angel Oak tree in Charleston.
  • Jocassee Gorges in the Upstate.
  • Chattooga River bordering Georgia.
  • Congaree National Park south of Columbia.
  • ACE Basin at the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers in the Lowcountry.
  • Table Rock Mountain north of Greenville.
  • Hunting Island in Beaufort County on the coast.