Lewis Smoak: Celebrating 10 Years of Conservation at Cedar Falls Farm
This month we spoke with Lewis Smoak, proud owner of Cedar Falls Farm, a CSRLT Preserve in Hart County.
Celebrating the Farm’s 10th Anniversary with the Land Trust, Lewis has been passionately transforming this 435-acre preserve on the banks of Lake Hartwell into a duck hunter’s oasis and family retreat.
We’re sure you’ll enjoy hearing about his adventures as much as we do.
Lewis Smoak and his grandson, Lewis III, on their way to watch wildflife together.
Q: How did you come to find the Central Savannah River Land Trust and how did you first come across the land you now preserve, called Cedar Falls Farm?
A: We found the Land Trust through our good friend Roy Simpkins. He had been telling us about their great work for several years.
I first came across the property as a long time partner in an adjoining property duck hunting partnership. For 20 years I had always admired the great antebellum home and finally around 1999 convinced the utility owner of the property to lease it to me for over-nighting during duck season. We had great times during those lease years as I tried to replicate the wonderful coed evenings of great food and conversation my wife Betty and I had experienced at Oakland and Santee Gun Clubs. The utility finally tired of my persistence to sell me the house, and the adjoining acreage in 2005. I entered the property into a conservation easement with the Land Trust two years later – and the last 10 years have been full or projects and making great memories.
Q: How did you develop such a passion for wild duck hunting and is this what drove you to choose the 500 acres at Cedar Falls Farm?
A: My passion for duck hunting was the key to initially leasing the house and then purchasing the property.
The Cedar Falls Farm acreage contains great sites for developing more duck habitat and adjoins the lands known on the Federal wildlife annual surveys as the “DeLoach Ponds.” Dr. Perry DeLoach began developing this area for ducks more than 35 years ago. The property is fairly unique in that it benefits from both a Savannah River flyway and an even smaller Ohio to the Florida Panhandle flyaway.
Q: What is special about Cedar Falls Farm preserve attracting wild ducks?
A: The property benefits from having two small flyways. The convergence of the two two attracts inland duck species, including: mallards, gadwall, widgeon, green wing teal, ring necks, spoonbills, blacks and the occasional pintails.
We are told by Georgia Wildlife that we winter the only Black ducks in the state . Of course, each year brings its challenges for ducks and duck hunting . This year it was the lack of rain for 12 weeks which led to loss of food and habitat in several ponds, as well as all the upland crops. On the flip side, in other recent years, a major rainstorm flooded and destroyed our food and habitat, not to mention our yearly visits from wild hogs who can destroy a three acre field in two nights if undetected!
Q: The property also has a historic 200 year old home and a hunting lodge. Share with us what renovations you have undertaken to make the dwellings what they are today?
A: One of the very best things we did was to move the 1830s house off a busy Highway 181 into a nice rural again setting , and restore the underpinnings and chimneys that were all in bad shape. Cox Movers from Spartanburg , who helped move Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and Cherrydale at Furman University were fantastic in pulling off this 1/2 mile move that has made such a difference in our enjoyment of the house in a location more akin to its original farm setting. Our friends, the late Gillis McKinnon, from Atlanta, designed the needed repairs, 4 new chimneys, and Beau Welling Design of Greenville designed the landscaping and grounds .
Last year we restored the old barn to a hunting lodge . It had served as a home for the Daniel family in the 1950s before they built a small farm house nearby. Those two structures and the nearby Five Stand for shooting sports form a nice combination for shooting and dining .
Q: 2017 marks the 10th conservation year anniversary for Cedar Falls Farm. Looking back what would you say were your biggest accomplishments and/or challenges.
A: Successfully moving a nearly 200 year old house without any issues and creating 4 new ponds which are wintering substantial numbers of ducks are both dreams come true for our family.
Our current project is to create a duck pond to be viewed from the back porch. The inspiration for having a pond off the back porch was inspired by seeing 38 pintails in a small shallow wet weather slew 5 miles from the farm. Our goal is to create that same habitat at Cedar Falls and watch pintails drop from the sky from our back porch. Our new house location allows duck watching as ducks leave the DeLoach and Cedar Falls ponds and fly against the fading sunset to overnight in Little and Big Powderhorn inlets on Lake Hartwell. At times the constant flights last for 15-20 minutes and make us feel like we are in Arkansas and not Georgia!
Q: What are some of your (other) outdoor places and activities that you love?
A: My wife’s family has a house on Lake Greenwood, SC which has spectacular sunrises and sunsets and is great for boating and skiing. In Cashiers, NC we enjoy sunrises and sunsets over Lupton Lake at Cedar Creek Racquet Club, golfing at Wade Hampton Golf Club which was a wonderful introduction to the spectacular beauty of the mountains.
Fly fishing and pheasant shooting are other favorite activities and of course, and and all, duck outings, are best when my family is along to share the great outdoors. It’s great to know that Cedar Falls Farm will be here forever for those type experiences .
Q: Do you have a personal mantra or inspirational quote about the meaning of life or nature/duck-hunting?
A: Friends have always said that I like to build things and they certainly agree that Cedar Falls has been a great building adventure.