Location: Edisto River, South Carolina
Access Point: Canady’s Bridge (GPS N33.0644 W 80.6129)
End Point: Givhans Ferry State Park – (GPS N 33.0288 W 80.3917)
Length: 23.6 Miles
South Carolina is one of our favorite places to be outside. From the beautiful rivers and lakes to the sweeping beaches, South Carolina is amazing and we can’t wait to go back. We spent six months in South Carolina and wish we could have stayed a life time. Kayaking the Edisto River is one of our most memorable places that we have journeyed.
According to SC Trails.net, the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail is an “easy trip on one of the state’s longest blackwater rivers. For much of its gentle and flat passage, the Edisto ambles along under huge live oaks draped in Spanish moss, stoic bald cypress, and water tupelo towering from the dark water. The river is abundant with red breast sunfish and other fauna including water snakes, alligator, kingfishers, great blue heron and egret.”
For nearly two months we planned our float trip. We had never completed an overnight trip with the kayaks and we wanted to do things right. Annette and I have spent a lot of nights in the wilderness of Utah backpacking in places such as Zion’s National Park and other famous Utah destinations, but we had never spent the night on a river in the South. The thought of visiting alligators and the ever famous cotton mouth chasing us down the river made the planning process a bit more interesting than a quick overnight trip to a Utah forest. Having not grown up in the south, we wanted to make sure we were well prepared.
For several weeks we studied the map of the river. We memorized snake identities found in the area. We looked at books with poisonous plants found in the south and kept a constant eye on the flow of the river using auquafrolic.com. We decided that a fall trip would be best and began planning the trip for an October float. The rainy season had ended, the first good frost had hopefully wiped out some of the bugs and slowed down a few snakes. The water level was historically lower at this time of year and the leaves were beginning to change color.
The sandbars found along the river provided a perfect place to camp for the night. We got started a little late on Friday night, so we had to hustle to find a place to camp that was down river as far as possible. The first amazing sandbar that we found was already taken by a clan of beer drinking college students that looked like they had been in the sun way to long. With a friendly wave and a bit of jealousy over their amazing spot, we paddled on.
We passed many beautiful cabins a long the river and some places that looked like scenes from Deliverance. If you listened hard enough I swear you could here a banjo playing. Most of the lodging along the river was falling down, but again, there was an occasional place that was warm and welcoming.
We did not see many people on the river. As a matter of fact, the college students seemed to be our only company and we had left them three miles up-stream. I use my iPhone in a lifeproof case to track our progress on the river. There are a host of tracking apps to choose from. I use Navionics, it has never let me down.
As the sun dropped out of the sky and the river turned dark, we frantically began looking for a place to stay the night. Just before we lost our light, we found a perfect spot! We were extremely happy over the find and quickly set-up camp. Our camp consists of just the basics: a ground tarp, a light three season three person tent, light sleeping bags and pads, backpacking pillows, a jetboil cooking stove, our yeti cooler full of cool drinks, a light set of backpacking cookware, Backpackers Pantry dinners (Chicken Alfredo is our favorite), head lamps for everyone, and a small LED lantern. All of our gear fits in dry bags in the hull of the boats with the more bulky items strapped to the top of the boat, always remembering to keep the center of gravity as low as possible.
After a wonderful evening and a great night’s sleep, we gathered our belongings and headed downstream. Because of our late start on Friday, we knew we had to make some good time to get to Givhan’s Ferry before the end of the day. The river holds within its watery grasp many treasures. These treasures are the shark teeth that can be found on the sandy bottom. This treasure hunt kept our son busy as we paddled the 16 miles to our end point. The river also holds within its grasp a few snags and strainers which take some tricky maneuvering to pass. While maneuvering around one snag, I was held up by a large branch that I did not see. The underwater branch found its way up through the boats scupper hole and caused a great deal of excitement. The excitement was not caused by a dangerous situation as it was a cause from frustration and problem solving as to figure out how to get off the #$%$# branch. To make things more exciting, a large snake from the bank became curious as we splashed and made quite a commotion in the water. After a few minutes of cursing and struggling, the boat finally broke free and we were once again on our way.
By the end of the day we were tired. Beyond paddling, we had spent a few hours swimming and cooling off in the water and playing on some beautiful sandbars. The day was wonderful! As we neared Givhan’s Ferry we began to see more and more people. Some of the people had been overnight at the Tree Houses that can only be reached by water and rented from Carolina Heritage Outfitters. I believe this would make a wonderful trip if you do not have the gear or means to camp. Reaching Givhan’s Ferry was a great relief. Although the trip was amazing, we were tired and ready to get off the water. Within just a few minutes of landing and loading the gear and kayaks, we were on the road back to Canadys to pick up our shuttle car.
The Edisto River is a must for all kayakers! It is a family friendly trip with unlimited possibilities. When we do this trip again, we will make it into a two night, three-day trip and add an extra leg below Givhan’s Ferry. We highly recommend this trip and can’t wait to get back and do it again! Kayaking the Edisto River is a trip we will never forget!
Safe Travels – Troy