On my recent trip to the Little River Blueway, an outdoor adventure area in the heart of Sumter National Forest, I had the chance to paddle one of the most secluded sections of Long Cane Creek.
Surrounded by woodlands, this Lake Thurmond tributary takes you through a diversity of settings from a wide open cove to a vast marsh ecosystem to the narrow backwaters of the creek. Except for the Highway 28 bridge next to the boat ramp, we saw no other concrete structures, buildings or homes - just a seemingly endless expanse of trees and vegetation.
Low inflows over the summer dropped the level of the brown creek water to a foot or less in the upper reaches of the cove, exposing a graveyard of scattered stumps and tree trunks. The shallow waters kept motor boaters from navigating beyond the bridge, reserving the cove and marshes for kayaks and canoes to explore. On this sunny Saturday morning, we had the place to ourselves.
As we made our way from the cove into the marsh, we encountered a great blue heron looking for breakfast in the exposed muddy river banks. As we approached, he launched into the sky, showing off his extraordinary six-foot wingspan.
The creek started to narrow as we paddled beyond the marsh, bringing the canopy of towering pines and hardwoods to water's edge. In one spot, we had to navigate under the branches of a low-hanging tree that pretty much covered the entire width of the channel.
After about an hour, we had just about run out of water, prompting us to turn back rather than portage through the low areas.
The Little River Blueway features 51 miles of scenic water trails, offering paddlers the opportunity to view Sumter National Forest terrain not accessible by land. You can download a map of the trails at www.littleriverblueway.org or pick one up at one of the convenience stores in the area.