We left Savannah, planning to drive about 150 miles to the Edisto River Canoe & Kayak Trail, but at the welcome center we picked up some brochures on kayaking in So. Carolina. We discovered that there are 11,000 miles of canoe and kayak waterways in S.C. Besides the coastal marshes and islands; there are many "black water" rivers and swamps. So we decided to stay near Beaufort at the Hunting Island State Park and explore some coastal lagoons as well as the "black water" rivers. The water is very dark brown from the tannin leached from leaves and pine needles.
The high tide was about 8:30 in the morning, so we decided we'd have to go inland and paddle one of the rivers. This is because the outgoing tide can produce some strong currents that we wanted to avoid. There is a significant delay in the time the high tide reaches places further inland, so we could drive inland and beat the high tide by an hour or so. We drove about 50 miles to a branch of the Ashepoo River. We paddled about 3 miles to the main river and then upriver for a mile or so, traveling through reed marshes and around pine covered islands. Within a half-mile we saw the first large alligator. There were lots of red wing blackbirds, egrets and golden eagles, but not too many other birds. Fish would jump out of the water from time to time. When we were nearly back to the truck, I saw a fishing float moving upstream, so I grabbed it! It was hooked on a huge fish. I struggled with it briefly, and then the line broke! When we were even closer to the launch spot an alligator splashed into the stream close to Phyllis' kayak. We guessed it was about four feet long, but after we had gotten on shore we saw it floating in the river about 100 feet away. It was at least 10 ft long!
On another day we paddled a salt-water lagoon on Hunting Island to where it joined an inlet from the sea. Then we left for a three-day trip on the Edisto River. After chatting with two kayakers and a river outfitter near the boat ramp, we set off upstream. The riverbanks are heavily wooded with pines, oaks, cypress, and various hardwoods. The river is nearly black like the Ashepoo, but if you dip a pan of it, there is very little tint to the water. Even so, we were carrying the water we intended to drink. There was a huge variety of birds - everything from great blue herons, white egrets, golden eagles, vultures to woodpeckers and warblers. We also saw a couple of mother ducks with large broods (7 to 10) of tiny ducklings along the edge of the river. We saw one or two alligators and several snakes.
The river is from 150 to 200 feet wide, but is often narrowed by fallen trees. It flows lazily along at about 2 to 4 mph with no rapids or rock obstructions. Most everything was the fresh green of spring. After about ten miles we came to the Springtown "Throw-In" -a canoe or kayak launch point. There were picnic tables and a shelter, so we decided to make camp under the pine trees. We had a nice campfire and looked at Hale-Bopp before bedding down. In the morning we continued upriver, stopping for lunch at a private wildlife refuge. We made our camp there and spent the after-noon paddling on up the river. When we returned, the dogs found a large snake as we were landing and chased it across Phyllis' kayak with her still in it!
We headed downriver in the morning, taking a detour into an interesting swamp. There were a few boats on the river since it was Saturday. With the current helping us along we were back to the boat ramp by noon. We had covered about 36 miles of beautiful "black water" kayaking.
On a very rainy day we moved our rig to James Island near Charleston. We drove into the historic district and found many streets flooded. We tried again and spent most of the next day in old Charleston. It is a beautiful city with a strong preservation spirit. We moved to a state park near Georgetown and made plans to explore the Black River. Rather than paddle upstream and back, we arranged with a river outfitter to take our truck to our take-out point at Andrews. We started at Kingstree and traveled down-stream for 42 miles. The river was similar to the Edisto, but more challenging. Fallen trees often blocked the stream, and we wandered by mistake into adjacent swamps a couple of times. There were fewer birds, but we did hear whippoorwills and owls at night. We also saw an otter and an 8-ft. alligator! The weather was warm, bringing out the mosquitoes and ticks.
We were camped in a delightful little meadow on the second night. After walking the nearby logging roads for several miles, we were convinced we were a long way from anyone. Imagine our surprise when an elderly couple drove into the clearing at 7 am in a white Lincoln! They were probably just as surprised to find two crazy old Californians on a kayak camping trip.
Before we left So. Carolina, we tried another kayak experience. We put in at Murrell's Inlet and paddled out past the jetty into the Atlantic. Then we played in the 2-foot surf along the beach. On the way back we got lost in some of the tidal estuaries, but we had great fun!
Your wandering friends, Phil & Phyllis Allin
- Trip Duration: Extended Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)