Kayak the Horse Creek Water Trail
If I were to tell you Aiken County's Historic Horse Creek Water Trail features state-of-the-art floating docks, you might be tempted to dismiss it as so much hype. After all, how cutting-edge can a put-in or take-out be for a boat as small and simple as a kayak?
Well I was impressed. These babies feature a grooved center that cradles your boat on rollers, allowing you to board your kayak on the dock and then glide easily into the water. Hand grips are provided so you can pull yourself along the rollers.
When you're ready to take out, you paddle straight into the groove and roll yourself up. Genius! I've never come across a dock as kayak-friendly as these.
That's not to take away anything from the main attraction - the lovely Horse Creek. A 24-mile tributary of the Savannah River, the narrow stream was once frequented by Westos Indians who watered their horses in the cool, fresh water. Hence, the name Horse Creek.
Flanked by dense forest, the narrow passage was not easily accessible until Aiken County teamed up with South Carolina Parks, Recreation & Tourism to develop the water trail.
The put-in is at Langley Pond Park, home to South Carolina's only Olympic-size rowing course. (I'll tell you more about the park in an upcoming blog post.) A nature trail to the right of the park's boat ramp leads to the kayak and canoe dock. A word of warning: it's about a quarter-mile walk to the water.
Once there, it's an easy launch from the aforementioned dock. There was a fairly swift current the day I paddled the creek, allowing us to coast along without a lot of effort. The creek winds through the woods with very few signs of civilization to distract from the serenity of this secluded waterway.
Birds serenaded us from the trees with an occasional appearance of a winged spectator, among them ducks and herons. The coolest wildlife sighting of the day was a spotted gar that had caught a fish in its mouth. He was easy to spy through the clear creek water.
Although a skilled paddler could maneuver a sea kayak through the sometimes twisty and often narrow creek, it's best suited for smaller boats of the recreational variety. I paddled a whitewater boat, which made it easy to get around the tightest turns.
It took us about 90 minutes to get to the take-out at Harrison-Caver Park in Clearwater. When you see a bench on river right, you're just a minute or two from reaching the dock. It's best to paddle hard directly into the inclining groove at the end of the dock to get as far up on the platform as you can. From the floating platform, it's just a short walk to the parking lot.
Plans are in the works to offer additional access points upriver, allowing you to paddle a total of 8.5 miles through the historic mill villages of Graniteville, Warrenville, Burnettown, Langley, Bath and Clearwater.