I put in at the parking lot off S. Cedar Creek Rd. and paddled upstream for a few hours. There is another canoe/kayak launch upstream of the park, but I called ahead and was advised by the Park Ranger to use the Cedar Creek Rd launch to avoid numerous portages. There were strong ice storms this last winter, causing numerous trees to fall across the creek (or so I've been told).
In general the creek is a very easy paddle when water conditions are right. The water level was around 3.5-4.0 ft. when I went, which is about average. The only difficulties involved with this trip are some narrow passages through fallen trees and some dips under trunks/portages over logs depending on water level. I managed my entire trip without getting out of the water, though I did have to basically lie flat on my kayak a few times.
Be sure to bring bug spray - this is in the swamp after all!
The trail is marked, but not very well. It's easy to stay inside the creek bed but at high water levels you might want to stay off the creek or bring a map. I did see a few trail markers, which were square, brown background with a white canoe symbol and "Cedar Creek" written on them with a mile number. A few side creeks looked promising if the water was a little higher, but I didn't get very far down any before turning around.
I saw lots of fish jumping, and plenty of dragonflies and butterflies. I could hear wood peckers but didn't see any. I came across some wild hogs - one with a little piglet. I also came across a white-tailed deer on my way back. I ended up coming back a little sooner than planned due to a hornet that just wouldn't leave me alone - again bring your bug spray!
Other options would be to paddle downstream to the river or attempt the creek at the other landing, making the necessary portages and taking out where I put in.
Overall a very pleasant paddle in the shade with ample opportunities to drop a fishing line or watch the wildlife.
No facilities at the parking lot, but there is a visitor's center, restrooms, and campsites at Congaree National Park just up the road
No fees or permits required for access/paddling.
From I-77 near Columbia, take exit 5 (SC 48) for Bluff Road. Travel EAST following signs for Congaree National Park. To reach the S. Cedar Creek parking lot keep going past the signs for the national park and turn right on S. Cedar Creek Rd (~16 miles from the interstate). Keep following the road approximately 2 miles before a big left curve. The parking lot is on the right with signs.
I would recommend visiting the Congaree National Park's website as they have a lot more information about this trail and links to the USGS gauge information.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)