It was a second Saturday, which can only mean one thing – another outing with the guys from Lowcountry Unfiltered. This time our target was once again the Edisto River. This was to be our “beer commercial” float, full of rope swings, mayhem, and general goofing off. And, that pretty much sums up the day.
For this trip we were doing a familiar stretch. The plan was to put in at Mars Old Field Landing, but this time we would paddle past Givhens Ferry State Park and take out at Messervy Landing, adding another three miles to our trek.
Since it was going to be a very early morning, I headed down Friday evening. Craig Lee was driving up from Florida, so we met in Walterboro for dinner and to find a place to crash for the night. The next morning we headed to our rendezvous point at the take-out, with only a slight GPS miscalculation around Cottageville to throw us off track.
This was one of the largest groups we’ve ever had paddling with us. Even so, I counted about seven of our regular paddlers who couldn’t make it with us this time. The final count came to fifteen paddlers and kayaks – quite a group.
Boats transferred and reloaded, we headed up to our put-in at Mars Old Field. We had to pause for our obligatory group shot.
Another group of paddlers was just getting underway when we arrived. This group was just about as large as ours, and were receiving instructions from their tour leader. Most were completely inexperienced, and this showed as several of their group got snagged in the first fallen tree right below the put-in. I think they were in for a long day.
Our group got underway with no problem, though.
We came prepared for a very hot day on the river. I had lots of sunscreen, lots of water, a small cooler with drinks and ice, and even an umbrella that could be clamped to the boat for extra shade. The weather turned out better than we thought, though. The skies were overcast most of the day, and there was a nice breeze blowing along most of the river.
We also took advantage of just about every sand bar to swim and goof off. Most of the gang now comes armed with water guns so we started a new game. When we weren’t shooting each other, we tried skeet shooting a Frisbee that someone had brought along.
The water level was much, much lower than when we had paddled back in April. Some of the rope swings we wanted to try were actually hazardous. None of us wanted to land in only a couple of feet of water. This also left the limestone marl shelves exposed along the river banks.
Taking into account our multiple stops for lunch and goofing off, the trip actually passed fairly quickly. This time we decided not to explore Four Holes Swamp, like we usually do on this stretch, since we had added to the overall length of our trek. We also had the river pretty much to ourselves. The other large group of paddlers had gone on downstream, and there was very little boat or inner tube traffic. That was about to change, however.
Normally we encounter tubing parties from about Four Holes Swamp down to Givhens Ferry. This time the river was quiet until we got to the state park. Just past the park and beyond the Highway 61 bridge we hit the tube parties. These were bank-to-bank, and more massive than any we had previously encountered.
There was a beach about half-way between the bridge and Messervy where the tubes pulled up to play. Some of these inflatables were little more than small pool floats. Some were massive – almost the size of pontoon boats. All had country music blaring and copious amounts of beer and tattoos.
One guy in an inflatable kayak was desperately jealous of those of us in real kayaks. He obviously had been drinking lots, but he would paddle up to each of us and ask about our boats, how much they costs, how he could get one, etc., etc. We had a hard time getting away from him.
When we got to Messervy Landing it was as much of a zoo as the previous bit of the river had been. This, apparently, was the take-out point for the tubers as well. The parking lot was crowded, and vehicles were parked all along the roadside heading out to the main road.
As you can imagine, combining this many people with alcohol and river water is bound to cause problems. I don’t begrudge folks having fun on the water. I don’t even mind a beer or two. I do mind when a place gets trashed because of beer cans, or when behavior gets out of hand. On June 24 one floater was attacked by another after an altercation. The attacker hit the victim in the head with a log multiple times, requiring an emergency evac and hospitalization.
Fortunately, SC DNR and the local sheriff office was out in force. They would allow alcohol on the river, but you couldn’t have any open containers at the landings, or you would face stiff fines. Even so, I saw some things that made me cringe. I think the worst was a couple who had a 6-month old baby with them. They were just holding the baby on an inner tube, with no life vests to be seen anywhere. Their cooler of beer was better protected than their baby. The poor child was hot and crying when I paddled past, and they were cooling its head with river water.
By this time we were quite ready to be done with the crowds. We retrieved our vehicles from the put-in, loaded up the boats, and said our goodbyes until next month.
Except for the craziness right at the end, it had been a good trip. Here is a slide show of all of the photos I uploaded for this trip.