I was pleasantly surprised at how many people went on our last paddling excursion on the Enoree and Broad Rivers. In addition to our regular Lowcountry Unfiltered group, we had seven others from the Upstate and Midlands. There are several others from fairly close by that would have gone if they hadn’t had prior conflicts. That got me wondering whether or not we should start an Upstate version of Lowcountry Unfiltered. I don’t think I’m ready for that, yet, but my inquiries yielded some interesting things.
My paddling associations have always been informal. It’s always been just whoever was available on any particular paddling day. I’ve done more paddling with my friends Bob and Alan than anyone else, but there are others that join us with some consistency.
The Lowcountry Unfiltered group is the closest thing to a formal organization I’ve ever joined for paddling. However, the thing that appeals to me most about it is its very informal nature. Apart from having a website, logo, and a set Saturday of the month for outings, it’s a very loosely-defined group. If it weren’t for the fact that some of the trips are a bit far away for me, and the fact that I’m not free every second Saturday, I’d join them on just about every trip.
While toying with the idea of an Upstate group, I decided to check the web to see what others might be out there. These range from the informal to the anal retentive, based on who’s running the group and how many paddlers are involved. Here’s are some observations I’ve made based solely on their websites…
The Palmetto Paddlers are based out of Columbia and seem to be the most formal of the groups. They have monthly meetings and membership dues, and liability waivers have to be signed before each trip. Their trips tend to involve large groups of paddlers, and run with almost military precision. There is a group leader and someone bringing up the rear in the “sweep” position. These two stay in contact with radios so that no one gets left behind or lost.
The expedition leaders are asked to fill out a trip report after every paddling outing. The data requested includes the number of paddlers, number and types of boats, river or lake description and conditions, including the flow rate of the river. It’s an amazing amount of information that’s being requested for each trip. Here’s a sample from one of their trips down the Enoree River. It’s in PDF format.
Laura, being the type of scientist person she is, pointed out that some people enjoy collecting large amounts of data like this. True. Also, I’ve found the Palmetto Paddler’s trip reports on their website to be a great source of information when planning our trips.
The Lowcountry Paddlers (not to be confused with our LowCountry Unfiltered group) is based out of Charleston. Like Palmetto Paddlers, the group has membership fees and liability waivers to be signed for trips. There are also monthly meetings, officers, and by-laws.
While their website has an extensive list of upcoming trips and a basic discussion board, I don’t see a trip report listing anywhere. They do, however, have a a monthly newsletter in PDF format with some trip descriptions, but it’s hard to find information about specific paddling routes.
The Saluda Yakerz are based in Columbia, and focus more on whitewater paddling. Their website looks slick and cutting edge, with video clips and tight design elements, but it’s basically a discussion forum. Try as I might, I couldn’t find information about membership. It might be buried somewhere in the forums.
As their name might suggest, there’s lots of info about the Saluda River around Columbia, but there are photo galleries and discussions about other whitewater rivers in the area.
Closer to home there are two groups. First, the Foothills Paddling Club located in Greenville has folks that are interested in both whitewater and flatwater paddling. While there is the requisite discussion forum and photo gallery and a calendar for upcoming events, their Yahoo Groups-based website doesn’t seem to have much more information about the group. I did see that they have monthly meetings and annual dues.
The second local group is the Greenville Canoe/Kayak Meetup, and it’s a bit confusing. The group was started by the founder of the Foothills Paddling Club, and some of the same events are on both groups’ calendars. The Foothills Paddling Club’s logo can even be found on their site. Just on the surface it looks like a little less formal version of that paddling club.
All of these groups look like they’ve got some great trips planned. If you were new to the area and looking for some folks to start join for a paddling trip, I think that any would a good place to start. I personally prefer something less formal, but I’ve been paddling these rivers for years and have already developed a good group of like-minded friends. Heck, there are enough paddlers just in my own family to start our own kayaking club.
Still, I may join on of these groups on a paddle just to see what it’s like. I’ll keep my eyes open for trips to rivers I haven’t visited and give them a try sometime.