I started the trip in Rock Hill S.C. with the goal of Charleston. This trip was incredible. The upper part, from Rock Hill to Bates Bridge Landing (Hwy 601) was easy and safe. I did a great deal of my paddling at night. The Lower section from Hwy 601 to Charleston was difficult due to high banks high winds, high waves and of course..........the alligators. No night paddling through this section. However I found out about all the feeding spots at night. If you do this section take your ear plugs in June, the alligators like to bellow all night long.
From Rock Hill S.C. you put in at the dam and float through a series of rock gardens and shoals all the way to Landsford State Park. At Landsford State Park you have a navigation nightmare finding your way through the 1 hr. - 2hr. passage. In May it is an incredible trip, the Spider Lilies are in full bloom. There is nothing like it anywhere around in May! And do not forget Cornwallis slept here during the war. A ton of history abounds in this area!
From Landsford Canal you will come through the Catawba by way of Fishing Creek Lake. This lake is very quiet and comfortable with all of the development on the right side as you come down the river. Take plenty of food with you, there are no restaurants on the water at all on Fishing Creek Lake. At the end of the lake you will have to portage Nitrolee Dam which has 22 gates. It is a mile portage around to the other side. Locals are usually nice enough to help! After the portage put in under the bridge and paddle through Great Falls Reservoir. This is a major historical area, due to the fact that Thomas Jefferson saw it as a major military site. There are still bunkers left on the Islands.
You will go through Dearborn island and into Rocky Creek, then you have to portage another dam(Rocky Creek/Cedar Creek). After this you would expect a great restaurant, not yet. You will have to paddle 10 more miles on Lake Wateree to the State Park or Dutchman's Creek before you can eat and be merry.
The paddle across Lake Wateree is easy except with boat traffic. At the end of Lake Wateree you have your last portage before Santee Cooper Dam at Pinnopolis. The float from Wateree to Camden is extremely easy with plenty of camping sandbars. After you get to Camden you can stop on the Hwy 6 landing and walk across the bridge to Super Walmart, Arby's etc. Take a rest, it is a long way to Charleston still.
From Camden to 601 landing is easy, you will need to have supplies though. When the Congaree flows into the Wateree it forms the Santee. Alligators start at this point. Do not paddle at night. The swamps are beautiful and worth your trip. There is plenty of camping on the banks, some are steep call for references(803 482 3387). You will have 2 boat landings on River right after the railroad tracks cross the swamp. Stump Hole landing is the better of the 2 due to the fact that there is a store with food.
Crossing Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are to be done with respect and reverence. Storms come out of nowhere; the water gets shallow even for a kayak. I became stuck several times taking shortcuts, this is not good when you are alone with nothing but alligators that see you as only 3' tall.
The highlight of the whole trip across S.C. comes when you get to go through the incredible Locks at Pinnopolos Dam. You will be lowered down 70' into the Cooper River. From here enjoy the tide changes and alligators. The Harbour is wavy and fun, enjoy your expedition. this is an incredible trip but be prepared. Shem Creek is a great landing point to end your trip.
Be prepared with H20 for this trip!
Rivertown Adventures in Great Falls S.C. for sponsership and promotions.