I’m always looking for new paddling companions. Not that there’s anything wrong with the close friends I’ve developed in my other paddling groups, but different people bring different perspectives and and expertise on new paddling venues. The more the merrier (most of the time.). So lately I’ve been keeping track of the Tri-County Blueway Paddlers Meetup group. Ed Deal and Deb Mims have been organizing some insteresting trips over waterways I’ve wanted to explore and at times that I can attend. This week they scheduled a trip to the Old Santee Canal which I’d visited back in February with Lowcountry Unfiltered. I enjoyed that trip so much and the scenery was spectacular, so I decided to head back for this trip.
It was a trip that almost didn’t happen. I had signed up as a “maybe” on the Meetup site, knowing that current family issues, problems with gout, and even a broken home AC might keep me around the house. As it was, the gout almost did me in. I’ve been taking Prednisone, and it’s been keeping me awake at night. When my alarm went off at 4:30 am for the three hour drive down to Lake Moultryie I had only gotten a couple hours of sleep.
I made it, though. When I arrived at Angel’s Landing I found that the group was meeting at 9:30 instead of 6:30. I paid my parking fee, pulled into a shady spot, then snoozed for an hour.
Ed and Deb arrived and we began getting the boats ready for departure. Only six of us had signed up for the trip. Of that group one had sent message that he couldn’t come, and the others were running late. We were about to get underway when Lorie Jill arrived. She had trouble finding the place. The other paddler was a no-show, so there would only be the four of us.
It was starting to heat up, but there was a nice breeze. We set off, pausing to get some shots of the wildlife along the way. There were lots of osprey about, as well as terns, sea gulls, and other water birds.
Last time I was here we headed up the wrong canal first, winding up in a lakeside mobile home park. This time Ed led us straight across the lake to the old canal.
Across from the entrance to the canal is a cove filled with Lilly pads and other vegetation. We took a moment to explore. Ed found a water hyacinth.
We turned north onto the old canal waterway. The shaded path brought welcome relief from the heat of the day. A rather large alligator swam ahead of us, setting the pace. We saw other smaller ones as we continued along.
Water was much higher than the last time I was here. Last time we had to pull ourselves over a couple of limbs and the going was a bit dicey. This time we still bumped over a couple of logs, but it wasn’t much of a problem. It was certainly much easier going than my Long Cane Creek trek from the previous Saturday.
The paddling was smooth and peaceful. I had a chance to talk with our newcomer, Lori Jill. Lori had been a professional photographer with a studio. Now she does mainly nature photographer, and works as a tour guide in Charleston with one of the carriage companies. We talked cameras, and she expressed regret that she had only brought her smartphone on this trip. The scenery was spectacular.
Before I knew it we were approaching the railroad trestle over the canal. This is really the only place to stop along the way. Since the canal channel was dug out, the banks drop straight down 4-5 feet, so it’s hard to get out anywhere else. We stopped here for lunch on our February trip, and this would be our lunch stop this time, too.
We had our lunch in the shade of the pine trees lining the Palmetto trail, which runs crosses the canal at the trestle then runs back along the canal on the west side. As we were getting ready to load back up we heard the horn from a coal train on its way back from the the power plant at the north end of Lake Moultrie. The rather long train reached us about the time we were getting back into the boats.
On the last trip this was as far as we went. This time we decided to explore as far as we could go. Just past the trestle the canal was lined with vegetation, but we were still able to make our way through it.
On beyond the canal continued as before, but with a few more cypress trees and a few more strainers that required some maneuvering.
Soon enough we reached a point where we could go no further. The canal was blocked. According to Ed this was about 3/4 of a mile beyond the railroad trestle. Originally the canal had continued on up to the Santee River. We turned back around and headed back down the canal.
On back down the canal a rather large head popped back up. Once again we had an alligator setting the pace for us. This one stayed ahead of us for quite awhile, as we kept a safe distance back.
When the gator slipped to the left we took the opportunity to pass on the right. Soon enough we were back out to where the canal enters the lake. The breeze had picked up a bit and the water was bouncier than when we started. It did bring some relief from the heat, though.
I didn’t take any shots of the open water crossing at that point. We decided to explore a little cut-through that I’d used on my last trip. This took use between a couple of islands and through more lily pads. Flowers were in bloom.
From there we paddled pretty much straight back to the Angel’s Landing.
Total mileage for this trip was 7.82 miles, which puts me at 107.86 for the year.
It was a great paddling trip, and a nice revisit of the canal. Now I want to explore more of the outer areas of Lake Moultrie. Here’s a link to all of the photos I took on this trek:
Photos taken by Deb and Lori Jill can be seen on the Meetup Page at this link. My thanks to Ed and Deb for letting me tag along, and it was great meeting Lori Jill on this trip. I look forward to the next one with the Tri-County Blueway Paddlers.