As one might expect from a city voted the “Top Tourist Destination in the World,” Charleston has no shortage of visitors looking to experience the cultural heritage of the Carolina Lowcountry.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get away from the sightseers and enjoy a little quiet time on your vacation. Kayak Charleston offers paddling trips on some of the area’s most beautiful waterways — secluded destinations rich in history and natural beauty.
The tours are led by longtime paddler Ralph Earhart, author of “Kayak Charleston,” a guidebook to paddling trips within an hour of the Holy City.
Earhart recently took me kayaking on Horseshoe Creek, one of his favorite out-of-town getaways. Located about a half-hour from Charleston, the slow-moving blackwater creek is in the heart of the ACE Basin, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast.
The creek flows into the Ashepoo River, the “A” in the ACE Basin name. The confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers makes up a remarkable web of ecosystems from upland pine forests to freshwater marshes to barrier beaches.
We put in at Price’s Bridge Landing, a quiet spot on the river between U.S. highways 64 and 17. For the first half hour, we paddled downriver, circumnavigating an old tidewater rice field. This time of year, alligator weed has closed off the rice canals, so we stayed on the main channel.
The three-mile stretch of the creek leading to the Ashepoo is where you’re most likely to see alligators, Earhart told us. We didn’t see any of the prehistoric-looking reptiles, but our trip around the abandoned rice field was pleasant all the same.
At this point, we headed up the creek and into the forest. The tributary narrows the farther up you go and we soon found ourselves paddling under a gorgeous canopy of hardwoods draped in Spanish moss.
With only a two-and-a-half-foot tide in the creek, it was no trouble paddling against the current. From Price’s Bridge Landing, it’s about four miles to get to U.S. 64. You can paddle another four miles beyond that before you get to the end of the road, or creek as it may be.
In two and a half hours, we covered about five miles. The return trip, of course, was much faster as we paddled with the current. I stopped several times along the way to admire the wildflowers blooming along the banks. We also saw several elevated rice field dikes and some spectacular bald cypress trees.
With the exception of a couple of fishermen in Jon boats, we had the creek to ourselves. Hard to believe you can find such solitude just a short drive from Charleston.
Earhart plans his tours based on the skill level of the participants and the tides for that day. The cost is $35 for a two-hour trip, $60 for a three-hour trip and $80 for a full day of paddling.
For more information on Kayak Charleston, click here or call (843) 556-6268. You can purchase the Kayak Charleston guidebook online, at various area outfitters or at Barnes & Noble.