Take a Scenic Paddle on a Remote Section of the Edisto River

By:Marie McAden


I thought I had kayaked some of the most beautiful sections of the Edisto River– until this winter when I joined a group of friends for a paddle on the North Fork of the Edisto near Orangeburg, South Carolina.

The longest free flowing blackwater river in North America, the Edisto runs 250 miles from its origins in Saluda and Edgefield counties to the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the surrounding wilderness is bottomland hardwood forest thick with cypress and tupelo trees. The tannin released by decomposing plant matter in the cypress swamps is what gives the water its brownish color.

Because the river flows through so much swampland, there is very little development along its banks. The section we paddled was particularly remote and scenic with side channels that put you among the towering trees.

Twisting through the forest under a canopy of buttressed cypress, the river takes you a world away from the stresses of modern day life. Traffic is limited to the occasional deer running through the woods. The only twittering going on here is of the avian variety.

It was a heavenly escape to serenity. Except for our small group of paddlers, there was not another soul in sight. Not even a lone fisherman.

That’s probably because the narrow, winding river offers plenty of natural obstacles to keep all but the most determined boater away. We were constantly dodging Mother Nature’s discards—in the water and overhead. Floating limbs and low-hanging branches make it difficult for even jon boats to get through, reserving the waterway for kayakers and canoeists with some advanced paddling skills.

At one point, we were denied passage on the water by a large pine tree that had fallen across the river. Fortunately, the tree trunk was so large, we were able to sit on it and pull our boats over, allowing us to continue on our way.

We disembarked one other time to have lunch on one of the few accessible areas of high ground. In total, we paddled about 11 miles from the Slab Landing Bridge to Shillings Bridge Road – five hours of stress-busting bliss.

The Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail encompasses 62 miles of the river with sections accessible to all ability levels. Several outfitters offer trips on both the main branch and the South and North Fork. For more information on the Edisto River, click here.

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