I was determined to celebrate Water Wednesday this week. Even if I had to go by myself, I was going somewhere. I really needed the solace and relaxation of being on the water. Fortunately, Jeff Holland was able to join me for an exploration of Lake Keowee and Estatoe Creek.
We got an early start. Jeff had percussion lessons to teach in the afternoon, so we would be limited to a morning paddle. Lake Keowee was a known quantity, and not too far away. I figured it was still doable. I picked up Jeff, and as we drove up 288 we watched the clouds lift and fog settle into the river valleys. I hoped that we would get to paddle through some of that fog. We managed to get up to the Gorges State Park kayak launch by 8:00 am, then get on the water by 8:30, but by then the fog had cleared.
That early we had the place to ourselves. A ranger doing some litter cleanup said that this past holiday weekend it was a zoo. We unloaded and got launched.
The weather was ideal. There were just enough clouds to make the sky interesting.
We pulled back into the cove that borders the park. There was a rock face with a trickle of water, and a deeper cove on back. I had explored these previously, but it’s always fun to check them out again.
Just around the cove is a large exposed rock formation. In the past we’ve seen kids jumping off of these rocks. Jeff spotted what looked like a cave in some of the upper reaches of the rock. On top of one boulder was a precarious rope swing.
We continued on around, headed into the upper reaches of this arm of the lake. We had the place pretty much all to ourselves. There were no other boats of any type out and about.
It looked like lake levels were still low. Back at the park I’ve put in when water came up to the bottom step of the kayak launch. Today it was far below the step. As we paddled along the lake edge I could see more of the shore exposed. I told Jeff that we might have trouble heading up the creek, as it was already shallow.
When we got to the entrance of Estatoe Creek it did get more shallow. There was a fishing boat at the entrance to the creek, and that was about as far as it was going to get given the depth of the water at that point. That’s the nice thing about kayaks, though. We can go where these big boats can’t. We continued on up the creek.
It seemed that with the lower levels much more of the rocky banks of the creek was also exposed. This included some undercut areas that might normally be under water. We found one cave into which I could actually paddle.
Here’s a short video clip of me paddling into the cave.
As we paddled upstream the current got stronger. On the two previous times I’ve made this trek I don’t remember it being this strong. In some stretches we struggled against current and over shallow sandy areas, but we kept finding a way forward.
We reached a point where we probably could have gone further, but we were probably running out of time for this morning’s paddle. We decided to head back.
Heading back with the current we fairly zipped along. We could float without paddling, but we had to watch out so that we didn’t get stranded in the shallows.
The trip back down the creek went by MUCH quicker than the trip upstream. I honestly don’t remember the current being this strong on my previous trips. We wondered if electricity production was drawing the lake down, hence the stronger current. Yet, the Keowee power plant is nuclear, so they aren’t really pulling water over turbines. Who knows?
On the way up I’d made note of various obstacles that we’d have to avoid. When we reached the opening onto the lake I couldn’t remember having passed them on the way down, we went by them so quickly. A heron who had scolded us all along the trip now sat guarding the entrance to the lake.
We explored a bit of the cove just beyond the entrance to Estatoe Creek, then headed back toward the landing. While we were in the creek a westerly wind had picked up, so we now had headwinds to battle on the way back. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad and we made good time.
There were still no motor boats out on the lake, but traffic for human-power craft was increasing. We passed several kayaks and paddle boards following the route we had just taken. Folks were launching when we reached the landing.
It had been a great morning paddle. We were able to get Jeff off the water and back to Greenville in time for his afternoon percussion students. In all we paddled 6.57 miles, which brings my total for the year to 116.84 miles.
It was a great morning paddle. As we drove back to the Greenville we watched storm clouds lifting over the Blue Wall. It was probably a good thing we had limited our time to just the morning. This is a good quick paddling venue, even if you do have to put up with the abomination of the Cliffs development on the north shore of the lake. You can escape to the peacefulness of Estatoe fairly quickly.