Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers
File – Paddling South Carolina Rivers (KMZ, 1.5 MB)
Google Earth has been one of the best resources for planning river kayaking trips, especially on new routes with which I’m not familiar. I’ll scan the route, locate put-in and take-out points, and put placemarks for certain landmarks such as rapids, powerlines, bridges, tributaries, or other interesting locations along the way. I would then use GPS Babel to convert my Google Earth files to GPX files then upload the data to my GPS so I would have it with me on the paddling trip.
Pretty soon I had a nice little collection of river trips in Google Earth. I began to wonder if anyone else was doing this. It seemed like it would be an excellent resource. There are some excellent books out there, such as Able and Horman’s Paddling South Carolina, and while the maps in these resources are fine for giving driving directions, there is no GPS information. SCTrails.net has started putting Lat/Long coordinates for some of their paddling trails, but not for all of them. So, I decided to make my own collection.
I knew when I started that I had to set some ground rules. I decided to focus only on rivers. Specifically, I was looking for trips that go from point A to B with some kind of current. The route is limited by the physical nature of the body of water. I included only easily navigated rivers, and excluded those that are too narrow, such as upper reaches of the Enoree and branches of the Tyger and Saluda. These may be run after a good rain by folks with creek boats, but they may be too much trouble for most paddlers.
There are also lots of great flatwater paddling opportunities on ponds and lakes in our state, but I decided to exclude those, or this project would get out of hand. As I tried to adhere to this rule I ran into some gray areas. Coastal rivers, in particular, became a problem. Are tides sufficient enough to be called a “current”? If the coastal river was part of a larger paddle route, such as the Edisto, I included it. However, if the river was primarily just part of an estuary system, such as the May river, I didn’t include it. There was also the problem with dammed (damned) rivers that didn’t form a large lake. I included these only if that portion was part of a larger paddling route. Not to exclude these wonderful still water paddling opportunities, I did include a section listing all of the SC DNR boat ramps in the file.
Before I got started, I tried to see if someone else had create a similar resource. A paddler in Florida created something similar for that state and uploaded it to the Google Earth Community. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything similar for South Carolina. There was, however, some excellent hydrology GIS resources from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. I used some of these as a base for my project, importing them into ArcGIS then exporting them as KML files for inclusion in Google Earth.
The rest of the project had to be done manually. Using all the river guides I could find, both printed and online, I started plotting paddling routes. I started this when I had the flu a couple of weeks ago, and continued it in the evenings while sitting in front of the TV. It’s been a fascinating virtual trip through our state, and I now want explore even more of these rivers.
One thing that struck me was that South Carolina still has large stretches of rivers that are still essentially wilderness. The lower part of the state has long stretches along the Little Pee Dee and Edisto Rivers that are bordered by swamp lands, but even some of the Midlands rivers, particularly the Wateree and Congaree, have very limited access.
I divided the rivers into three main groups – Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry, and Coastal. This is a bit different from how others divide the state, but I’ve got my reasons, as follows:
- Upstate – these are rivers above the Fall Line. The rivers tend to be narrower, a bit shallower, and have a strong current. There are often shoals or rapids that have to be negotiated.
- Midlands and Lowcountry – these are rivers below the Fall Line. These rivers tend to become broader and meander through swamp lands. Usually there is still a good current.
- Coastal – these are rivers along the coast (duh) that come under the effect of tidal forces. In this section I only included rivers that begin and end in tidal zones. For example, the Edisto does not fall into this section because it originates in the Lowcountry section, but it does extend to the coast and the ACE Basin.
In addition to the river routes and access points, I included landmarks only the way. Some of these are easily recognized in Google Earth, such as bridges and powerlines. Obvious historic landmarks were included. I also used my South Carolina Place Names Database, which includes USGS GNIS data, to locate historic landings, ferries, and mills along the routes.
Finally, I used the Panoramio layer in Google Earth and Metaltoad’s Flickr Google Earth network file to locate photos along the river routes. I copied these into the appropriate folders, as well, so that there are images of each of these rivers.
The total came to 41 rivers in South Carolina. Here’s the list…
Upstate – 14
North Saluda River
North Tyger River
South Tyger River
Turkey Creek – Stevens Creek
Lawson’s Fork Creek
Midlands to Lowcountry – 17
Ediston North Fork
Black River Congaree River
Little Pee Dee River
Edisto South Fork
Great Pee Dee River
Four Holes Swamp
Black Mingo Creek
Coastal – 13
North Santee River
Each river is placed in its own folder with subfolders for River Access, Paddle Routes, Points of Interest, and Photos and Videos. I tried not to editorialize with descriptions of the rivers. Any descriptions come from the resources themselves.
How to Use the File…
It goes without saying that you need Google Earth in order to view the file. The file is rather large and cluttered, so I wouldn’t recommend turning on all of the folders at once. Select a folder and zoom in, then turn on only that folder. You can save each river folder as a separate KML file, then convert the file to a GPX file for your GPS using GPS Babel. The routes were as accurate as I could get them using Google Earth, and will uploade to your GPS as well.
I’ve also included a folder for Resources. These include my source materials, an overlay graphic of major river systems in the state, and an overlay of the Fall Line from SC DNR data. There are also two network layers – one from American Whitewater showing flow rates and difficulty classifications for whitewater rivers in the state, and one from USGS showing flow rates and water levels from gauging stations around the state.
Here is the rather extensive list of resources I used to complete this project…
Able, Gene and Jack Horan. Paddling South Carolina: A Guide to Palmetto State River Trails. Revised Edition. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Press, 2001
Beasley, Barry and Tom Blagden, Jr. The Rivers of South Carolina. Englewoood, CO: Westcliffe Publishers, Inc. 1999
Benner, Bob and David Benner. Carolina White Water A Paddler’s Guide to the Western Carolinas. Seventh Edition. Birmingham, AL: Menasha Ridge Press, 1993
Boyd, Brian A. Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. Revised Third Edition. Clayton, GA: Fern Creek Press, 2001
Earhart, Ralph. Kayak Charleston: A Guide to Trips within 1 Hour of Charleston. Charleston, SC: R. Earhart, 2004
Jackson, Jeff and Dave Hargett. Reedy River Paddling Trail: Greenville, SC to Lake Greenwood. Brochure. Greenville, SC: Friends of the Reedy River, 1999
Taylor, David and Gary Henderson. The Lawson’s Fork: Headwaters to Confluence. Spartanburg, SC: Hub City Press, 2000
South Carolina Atlas & Gazetteer. First Edition. Yarmouth, ME; Delorme, 1998
Web Resources (in no particular order)
These are most of the web resources referenced in this project. These are in no particular order…
RiverVenture – an excellent educational tool about the rivers in South Carolina produced by my good friend Patrick Hayes at SCETV – http://www.riverventure.org
Sciway – a privately funded website with just about anything anyone would want to know about South Carolina – http://www.sciway.net
American Whitewater – http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/state-summary/state/SC/
SC Trails – an excellent online resource for planning paddling trips – http://www.sctrails.net/Trails/ALLTRAILS/WaterTrails/WATERTRAILS.html
Paddling.net – Kayaking and Canoeing in South Carolina – http://www.paddling.net/places/SC/
Riverfacts.com – South Carolina Whitewater – http://www.riverfacts.com/states/sc.html
USGS – Water Resources of the United States – http://sc.water.usgs.gov/
US Forest Service – Broad River – http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/fms/sumter/recreation/BroadRiver.php
US Forest Service – Enoree River – http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/fms/sumter/recreation/EnoreeRiverCanoeTrail.php
GORP – Enoree River Paddling Trail – http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_river/sc_enore.htm
Paddling.net – Trip Reports for South Carolina – http://www.paddling.net/places/SC/
Friends of the Edisto – http://www.edistofriends.org/
Greenville County Planning Commission – Saluda Paddling Guide – http://www.greenvillecounty.org/gcpc/transportation_planning.asp
Catawba River Keepers – http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/
Duke Energy – Catawba Canoe Trail – http://www.duke-energy.com/lakes/catawba-river-canoe-trail-map.asp
American Rivers – Southeastern Rivers – http://www.americanrivers.org/your-region/southeast/
Aweigh – Collection of South Carolina paddling information from paddler Dennis Biby – http://www.aweigh.com/kayaking
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources – Scenic River Designations – http://www.dnr.sc.gov/water/envaff/river/scenic_act.html
Brown€™s Guide to Georgia – Savannah River Guide – http://brownsguides.com/srl/savannah-river-paddling-guide/
Savannah River Kayak Trip – personal trip report – http://www.mudspike.com/savannah.htm
ACE Basin – Canoe Trails – http://www.acebasin.net/canoe.html
ACE Basin – Boat Landings – http://www.acebasin.net/boatlanding.html
Palmetto Paddlers – Trip reports from rivers throughout the state – http://www.palmettopaddlers.org
USGS Geographic Name Information Service – http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic
RandomConnections – South Carolina Place Names – http://www.randomconnections.com/scplacenames/
South Carolina DNR GIS Hydrology Data – http://www.dnr.sc.gov/gis.html
So, enjoy, and please send feedback about the file.