Paddle the Enoree River in the Piedmont's Backcountry

By:Marie McAden


So many rivers. So little time.

I recently discovered another great paddling destination in South Carolina. The Enoree River, located in the Pied​mont’s backcountry, offers the kind of off-the-grid experience one finds in places visitors seldom venture.

From the small Southern town of Clinton, the river winds through 36 miles of Sumter National Forest. Paddling downstream along steep hardwood bluffs and floodplain forests, you are cloaked in a solitude enjoyed only in remote settings far from cell towers and Wi-Fi.

On a recent weekend, we put in at the canoe launch at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, six miles upstream from the official start of the river trail. Aside from navigating past some riffles and a few downed branches at the launch site, it was an easy two-hour float trip.

The name Enoree comes from the Cherokees, meaning “river of muscadines”, the wild grapes that can be found all along the lower section of the waterway. Along with grapevines, the surrounding terrain features ash, sycamore and hickory trees that form a dense canopy over the water in the warmer months of the year.

Most of the Enoree is narrow and shallow, ranging from 40 to 70 feet across and two to six feet deep. The first 16 miles of the river trail (referred to as Reach 1) is virtually free of development. While you won’t see many species of the two-legged variety, the surrounding land is popular with hawks, blue herons, barred owls, mink, muskrats and otters.

The brisk current moved us along at a steady pace, but we had to do a little maneuvering to get around sandbars and strainers.

During rainy months, the water level can overflow the Enoree’s banks. In the dry summer months, there may only be a trickle in the main channel. The rangers at Musgrove Mill can provide you with information on the current conditions of the river in the section running through the park. The park office number is (864) 938-0100.

We took out at Jones Bridge, but there are two more access points in Reach 1 of the river trail. It’s about a four- to five-hour paddle to the second take-out site at Forest Service Road 339.

The Enoree Pass​age of the Palmetto ​Trail crosses through Reach 1. Look out for hikers crossing a footbridge just after the Jones Bridge access point.

For a printable guide and map of the Enoree River Canoe Trail, cli​ck here

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