Hunnicutt Creek is one of several natural watersheds on the Clemson campus, with several branches that drain the approximately 2.72 square miles of the core campus area to the extant Seneca River Beds, along with several other tributaries, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pumping station, which is pumped into Lake Hartwell. For the most part, campus and watershed boundaries overlap.
The slopes are generally rolling in the upland areas and flat on the extant floodplain, or the area referred to as the bottoms that also serve as flood storage for large storm events or pump failure. Several steep slopes exist on campus where the stream reaches have down cut, incised, heavily eroded and scoured the existing stream channel. Although the main drainage pattern is westerly, all aspects are present on campus because of the terrain. The elevation on campus ranges from 612 to 868 feet above sea level.
Due to the variables in storm water runoff volume and peak discharge, the physical and biological integrity of streams located within the Clemson campus is severely limited. Many decades of engineering have led to stormwater conveyance designs that quickly and efficiently direct runoff from roads, parking lots and buildings to the nearest water body. While this minimized flooding on campus, the unintended consequences are negative impacts on stream dimension, pattern and profile. When the stream channel is unstable, it cannot support fish and other macro-invertebrates. With no dynamic equilibrium currently established with the campus boundaries, aquatic resources are measurably degraded.
Ecological restoration of the degraded streams is needed, as is treatment of stormwater runoff, such that riparian buffers and wetlands can be recreated.
On Clemson’s campus, the subwatershed that includes the C1 parking lot and Recycling Center is the headwaters of Hunnicutt Creek, and thus a top priority for restoration. This area contains a mixture of forested areas, parking lots, roads, and turf. The impervious surfaces negatively impact water quality by increasing storm flow and decreasing base flow water levels, and transporting contaminants and sediments with increased runoff.
The meandering stream bed under Lightsey Bridge which has been channelized under a pedestrian bridge to relieve erosion from the valley slope and bridge pier offers an excellent opportunity for restoration and a stormwater wetland. The Walker Course also offers several opportunities for stream bank stabilization.
The Woodland Wildflower Trail in the South Carolina Botanical Garden follows and crosses the Middle Branch of Hunnicutt Creek.
The Western Branch of Hunnicutt Creek accounts for the deep valley where once was located The Stockade, and which now is occupied on the upper reaches by the Amphitheatre, the Reflection pond, the Cooper Library and the Strom Thurmond Institute.
Many fish species native to the area may have resided in Hunnicutt Creek when it was a true tributary of the Seneca River, including channel cats, sunfish, shiners, pickerels, darters, chub, minnow, bullheads, bluegill, largemouth bass, and even large river species such as shad, herring, or gar, but there is no way to know exactly which were once present.
- The Riparian Corridor Master Plan, Campus Planning Services, Clemson University, December 2006
- Littlejohn, Mary Katherine, "Tales of Tigertown", Clemson, S.C., 1979, page 11.