COLUMBIA, S.C. — Environmentalists say it's one of Columbia's best-kept secrets.
Boyd Island, along the Saluda River, recently opened to the public.
On Saturday, locals took a tour as they celebrated "Earth Hour," a global effort to honor the environment with a moment in the dark.
"Having grown up here, I never knew this even existed," Mark Krebs, who attended one of the tours, said. "It's so fascinating just the nature. We had a great park ranger guiding us."
Assistant Park Superintendent Karen Kustafik was their guide. She said the island was opened thanks to the Darnall and Susan Boyd Foundation.
"It is absolutely beautiful and now that we are easily accessible, we encourage everybody to come out and see it for themselves," Kustafik said.
Tours continued as the sunset and night fell onto the island.
"We turned off the light and we walked in the dark and we're finishing in the dark, but what a joy because you can see the stars and have an appreciation for what all of this natural system was like before people arrived and intervened," Kustafik said. "Every bit of light that we can turn off or focus downward instead of polluting upward will help to keep natural systems functioning much better."
With flashlights as their guide, attendees like Bob Petrulis looked to the stars, taking in the moment.
"....think, about our impact on the environment and how we might be able to make things better," Petrulis said. "This is a gem. Everybody needs to come out here and just wander around on this island. It's beautiful. It's got all kinds of native plants and you can even spot a bald eagle from here."
While the "Earth Hour" tours have ended, those interested in visiting the island can do so for free, but there is a journey to get there.
According to Kustafik, visitors should park at the Saluda River Walk on Candi Lane in Columbia, then walk about a mile and a half to the island.