For a truly unforgettable camping experience, it's hard to beat an overnight stay in one of the Edisto River Treehouses. Located on the banks of the Edisto River in the heart of South Carolina's ACE Basin, the treehouses allow you to engage your inner "Swiss Family Robinson." And, as with any great adventure, getting there is half the fun.
To reach the treehouses, you'll paddle approximately 13 miles down the Edisto River, which just so happens to be the longest free-flowing blackwater river in the country. Don't worry, though. It's typically a lazy, downriver journey that makes for an easy paddle - even for novices.
Carolina Heritage Outfitters, owners of the Edisto River Treehouses, will supply you with a canoe, paddles, life jackets and directions. You'll be in the water in no time, paddling leisurely down the rapid-free Edisto River, its banks lined with ancient cedar, cypress and live oak trees.
Keep your eyes peeled as you make your way to the treehouses and you just might glimpse a hawk, an alligator or two, or any number of the dozens of species of turtles that make the river their home. The river basin is also the habitat of several species of wildlife that have been designated as endangered or threatened by the federal government. Among those are the Peregrine falcon, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the wood stork.
Take your time and enjoy the day. In the summer, the Edisto River is relatively shallow and its banks are sandy and forgiving, so stop where you please for a picnic lunch or a dip in the spring-fed river. Feel free to cast a line to do a little fishing; the Edisto is home to bass and several types of sunfish (also known as bream), all of which are delicious cooked over a campfire.
When you reach your destination, you'll be greeted by rustic wooden structures that rise out of the swamp, towering 15-20 feet above the forest floor. That first glimpse is an impressive sight and one you won't soon forget.
Your treehouse will be equipped with a propane grill, cooking utensils, a screened sleeping loft and even a few board games, so the only supplies you'll need to bring are sleeping bags and enough food and drink to last for your stay. Your campsite also includdes benches and a fire pit, perfect for sing-alongs, telling ghost stories, and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.
Spend the remainder of the daylight hours (or the following day if you choose to stay more than one night) exploring the hiking trails, swimming or fishing from the riverbank or lounging in the hammock with a good book. In the twilight hours, recount the day's adventure and share a few laughs with your fellow campers.
When at last you must leave, you'll pack your gear back into your canoe and paddle approximately 10 miles downriver. Take care to enjoy the last leg of your journey; there's just as much to see on the trip out as there was on the trip in. Your final stop will be right back where you first began, at Carolina Outfitters.
After all that paddling, you're going to want to eat. Dukes Barbecue in nearby Walterboro won't disappoint. This simple, buffet-style barbecue restaurant prides itself on good food without pretense, so you don't need to worry that you'll be underdressed.
Once you've satisfied your hunger, make the 20-minute drive to Ruffin for a visit to Breland Hill Strawberry Barn. There you'll have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries and purchase fresh butter beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, peanuts and more (call ahead for availability of produce). It's a fitting way to end two days spent in the great outdoors: taking a little bit of it home with you.