We entered the Big Salkehatchie river under the SC 63 bridge a few miles north of Varnville, SC. Our plan was to float to Yemassee, SC and exit off the Cumbahee River. The Big Salkehatchie and Little Salkehatchie join to form the Cunbahee River. The river was high and it runs in several small channels along most of its course until it joins the little Salk. There were six of us on this trip. Uncle Carl, My brother Jamie, My nephew Caleb, my nephew Christopher, my cousins husband Joel and myself.
It started out smooth enough, we made our way through the braid of channels, which were cleaned out by the locals, without much effort. But as the trip progressed the channels became less kept and more technical. We spotted a couple of deer, several ducks and a small wild pig on our way through, but nowhere did we see enough dry land to make a camp. Finally as we approached dark we came across an ancient logging road and was able to make a quite comfortable camp on it. It was a little cool, but it felt good to get around a camp fire again and talk about nothing. After a 20 degree night I woke to the smell and sound of a burning camp fire. Everyone should bring a couple of young boys on camping trips if not for the boys on good at least for the sake of never having to worry about who will get out of their warm sleeping bag to start a fire for everyone else to warm up to.
After we got back on the water we soon discovered the navigation much more difficult. Numerous portages and dead ends made for very slow going. After a solid six hours of paddling, and dragging, we came upon a hunting club and decided to call it quits. We were through the worse of it, but did not have enough daylight left to make the final 8 miles of this trip to the vehicles. Carl and I started the walk down the dirt road to the highway that led to Yemassee and soon came across a couple of nice hunters that gave us a ride to the landing. Thank God for the kindness of strangers, although I am sure they thought us nuts for canoeing through a flooded swamp in December.
We were tired and defeated but happy to have made it as far as we did. Next Christmas we plan to make this trip again, hopefully making it all the way to Yemassee.
There are a couple of Hotels in nearby Yemassee and Hampton SC.
15.5' Grumman, Mohawk Blazer 16, Uncle Carl's Funky old 16' Fiberglass Green Canoe. 4 season tents and heavy sleeping bags.
We put in a few miles north of Varnville, SC on highway 63. About 20 miles south of I-95 and Walterboro, SC.
Paddling South Carolina by Gene Able and Jack Horan
- Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)