As paddling venues go, the new Pacolet & Lawson's Fork Blueway offers a little from column A and a little from column B. On this 50-mile stretch of waterway, one can experience both the pleasures of a slow-moving, scenic paddle and the adrenaline rush of whitewater.
Developed by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and its partners, the blueway begins in Spartanburg on the Pacolet River and Lawson's Fork, winding its way past the confluence with the Broad River to the town of Lockhart. At that point, you can portage around the Lockhart dam to continue on to the lower Broad River.
The whitewater section of the blueway begins on the Pacolet River in the small town of Clifton and runs about 3.5 miles to the confluence with Lawson's Fork. The rapids are limited to Class I and II, making it navigable for even recreational boaters. While the thrills are modest for whitewater kayakers, there are several small play waves they will enjoy.
The first Pacolet River access area is on River Street in Clifton, but most paddlers prefer to put in a half mile downstream at Clifton Park and Beach off Goldmine Road. Located just below the Clifton Mill No. 2 dam, the launch site features a wide stretch of sand providing easy entry to the river
This section of the Pacolet is about 100 feet wide and features numerous rocky shoals with some class II rapids thrown in for fun. Once you get past the confluence with Lawson's Fork, the river turns placid. It's about 8 miles from Clifton Beach to the upper Pacolet River take-out on Sunny Acres Road in the town of Pacolet.
To paddle farther down river, you'll need to portage around two dams. The next takeout beyond the upper Pacolet River access is 15 miles away at the SC 105 bridge. From there, it's another 15 miles to the Lockhart dam.
A map of all the access areas on the Pacolet & Lawson's Fork Blueway can be found at Clifton Park and Beach.