Sparkleberry Perfection

Sparkleberry Landing Panorama

A second Saturday in May, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered trip. This time our group was heading back to Sparkleberry Swamp, and we had perfect weather and water levels for it. Unfortunately, because there was perfect weather, many of our group had other places to be. So, only four brave souls ventured further into the swamp than we’ve ever been. It was a nearly perfect day in the swamp. (Have I said the word “perfect” enough?)

Lowcountry Unfiltered at Sparkleberry Swamp

I got up early Saturday morning and made the drive down to the Sparkleberry Landing put-in. Initially I had the place to myself, with only a few boat trailers. As I unloaded the boats I brought, a couple of guys came up to me and asked about kayaking. Continue reading “Sparkleberry Perfection”

Edisto River – The Jacksonboro Passage

Edisto River 11

This trip was supposed to have been last week. The second Saturday of the month is when our Lowcountry Unfiltered group normally hits the trail. However, an event last weekend involving most of our group caused us to postpone the trip. That freed me up to participate in the Tame the Tyger Race last weekend.

So, this weekend rolled around, and our group headed down to the Edisto River. This time we were headed to a new stretch that ended just shy of the ACE Basin. We were going to do a thirteen mile stretch from Martin’s Landing to West Bank Landing through the historic district of Jacksonboro.

I loaded up the boat and gear Thursday night and headed down as far as St. George after work Friday. The weather wasn’t looking promising, but I decided to take the chance. When I got up Saturday to head down to the river a thick fog covered the area. However, it looked like it was going to burn off later. Driving through this historic area I wanted to just stop and photograph everything, but knew I’d need to get on down to our rendezvous at the take-out. I drove on through Jacksonboro, and turned at the old Wesley United Methodist Church onto Hope Plantation Lane.

Wesley United Methodist ChurchHope Plantation Lane Continue reading “Edisto River – The Jacksonboro Passage”

Colleton Museums and BBQ

Colleton County Museum

We had made a successful escape from Donnelley WMA. The ACE Basin was behind us, but not forgotten. We would be back, and we would conquer it, haints and curses be damned. However, on this particular Saturday, we still had lots on our plate. That phrase turned out to be truer that we could imagine.

Upon escaping Donnelley, our first objective was food. We drove through some very historical areas of Colleton County without stopping to admire them. Our target was Duke’s BBQ, located just off of Highway 15 to the northeast of Walterboro.

Dukes BBQ Signs

Dukes BBQ Exterior Continue reading “Colleton Museums and BBQ”

The Curse of Boynton House

The Curse of Boynton House

Boynton House sits abandoned and forlorn in a remote corner of the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, part of the ACE Basin. It was once the main house for a vast rice plantation. Now the wooden filigree is falling apart, and bat guano fills several of the rooms. On this particular trip, we also found out that it is cursed.

Normally we do a paddling trip the second Saturday of each month with the Lowcountry Unfiltered group. This time we decided to do something different. One of our members, Rob Dewig, has a new job with the Colleton County Museum. We wanted to check out his new digs. We also planned to do a bit of bike riding in the ACE Basin.

I got up far too early on Saturday morning and drove on down to the Lowcountry. Five other hearty souls joined me at the main kiosk for Donelley. It sounded like a disciples convention – Thomas (me), Matthew, James, John, James, and a young guy whose name starts out C-h-r-i-s-t. (Christian, Jimmy’s son). Yeah, we were in for trouble of Biblical proportions. Continue reading “The Curse of Boynton House”

Another LCU Edisto Day

LCU on the Edisto

The Edisto River has become home base for Lowcountry Unfiltered (or, at least, it runs a close second to the Savannah.) We try to paddle it at least twice, sometimes three times a year. Each section has its own characteristics. The stretch from Mars Old Field to Givhen’s Ferry is the “party stretch”, with float bubbas, rope swings, and who knows what else. The stretch we paddled Saturday has wildlife of a more traditional type. From Stokes Bridge to Mars Old Field one encounters one of the more remote parts of the river, with very few houses lining the banks. This particular trip we saw lots of wildlife, from osprey to herons and egrets to enormous carp trying to jump into our boats.

Our group was smaller than usual, only 10 paddlers, but we also had some new faces. I’ve known Marc Epting for years as Flickr photographer Marc50. Marc takes some great photos around his hometown of Columbia and the Midlands, but I was attracted to his photos because he uses the same camera I do – an aging Nikon D50. We also had a couple more newbies from the lowcountry join us. I hauled down two spare boats to accommodate the crowds.

LCU Group Shot

Continue reading “Another LCU Edisto Day”

Geocaching on Lake Marion

Lake Marion Paddling

Another second Saturday, and it was time for another epic paddling trip with Lowcountry Unfiltered. This one was truly epic. This time our explorations took us to the eastern part of Lake Marion to do some geocaching around Persanti Island.

Our launching point was Carolina King Landing, just north of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a private landing with cabins for rent, and was quite the happening place when I arrived. It turns out that this was the day for the Sparkleberry Poker Run up at the north end of the lake. Lots of camouflaged boats were getting ready for departure.

Lake Marion Geocaching-2Lake Marion Geocaching-1Lake Marion Geocaching-4

Alan arrived, and we entertained ourselves with Cokes, Moon Pies, and conversation with the proprietors of the local shop. These turned out to be very nice folks, and were very helpful suggesting parking and launch spots for the boats. They also had some interesting taxidermy. Continue reading “Geocaching on Lake Marion”

Lowcountry Unfiltered Does Ebenezer Creek

LCU on Ebenezer Creek

For our April Second Saturday Lowcountry Unfiltered trip, the group decided to head back to Ebenezer Creek. The last time our group had paddled this tributary of the Savannah River was a snowy February in 2010. I had planned to go on that trip, but a rare snowstorm prevented my joining them. I heard tales and saw photos of a cold snow-covered paddle through beautiful cypress cathedrals. I hated missing the first trip, and was really looking forward to this one.

Ebenezer Creek flows into the Savannah River at Ebenezer Landing, about 10 miles above where I-95 crosses the Savannah. The area is overflowing with history, as the site of one of the earliest settlements in Georgia, and the location of one of the worst betrayals of the Civil War.

Ebenezer Creek GPS Track

Our plan was to put in at Log Landing and paddle down to Ebenezer Landing for a 10.4 mile trip. This added about 3 miles to the group’s previous trip. Continue reading “Lowcountry Unfiltered Does Ebenezer Creek”

A Paddle and a Pow Wow on the Savannah River

Lowcountry Unfiltered on the Savannah River

It was the second Saturday of the month, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered outing. For this excursion we were headed to the heart of some Civil War history along the Savannah River. The plan was to paddle a 5 mile stretch from Beck’s Ford Landing to Millstone Landing. It turned out to be a momentous trip for a variety of reasons.

I drove down right after work Friday evening and crashed at Matt’s place in Bluffton. The next morning we loaded up the boats at met the rest of the LCU guys at their usual meeting place, Grace Coastal Church. It was a small group – five of us met at the church, and James Martin came down from Columbia to meet us at the landing.

As we drove through the town of Hardeeville, small signs with the word “Pow Wow” and arrows pointing in the general direction we were going. When we got to the turn off for the take-out at Millstone Landing, we saw the following sign…

Apparently there was a big Pow Wow at the landing. We were starting to wonder if this was a good idea.

When we got to the landing there were tents set up everywhere and things were just getting started. Parking was just starting to get scarce, but we found places for two of our cars. We loaded up our boats into the remaining trucks and drove on up to our put-in at Beck’s Ferry Landing. Continue reading “A Paddle and a Pow Wow on the Savannah River”

Sparkleberry Unfiltered

The Gang - 14

It’s the second Saturday of the month, and that means another trip with my friends from Lowcountry Unfiltered. For this trip we decided to tackle Sparkleberry Swamp, at the north end of Lake Marion. I had paddled it before, but we only did a short trip that day. I was eager to see more, and I was curious how the swamp would look in winter.


Matt and I went back and forth on this trip. What we wanted to do was to hit the heart of the swamp, and paddle from Sparkleberry Landing to Risers Lake. However, there were lots of variables that had to be in place before we could take the trip – weather, water levels, etc. We had several alternatives, such as launching from Low Falls Landing, or doing something different all together.

The Palmetto Paddlers were also planning a trip to Sparkleberry for the same weekend, but they were going Sunday instead of Saturday. I contacted Kate Whitmire, the trip’s organizer, to see if she had any insight into water levels. She pointed me to the USGS water levels website for Pineville on Lake Marion. According to Kate, a reading of 72.09 was necessary for a paddle without portages.

I took my GPS track from my last trip, trip reports from several other paddlers, and placed all the data I could find on the Lowcountry Unfiltered wiki site. Based on this data, I created a GPS file that included waypoints and routes, as well as a Google Earth file with image and map overlays.

John Nelson also shared a great map of the swamp. It didn’t have the detail of the Google Earth data, but it had the “bones” of the swamp, and would prove useful to make sure we were on a major channel. It also provided names for the various creeks and guts that weren’t available in Google Earth.

I printed out copies of John’s map, my Google Earth maps, and a map of the 7.5 minute USGS topo map of the area. I had also purchased a fishing map of Lake Marion. I put all of these in a waterproof map case I had just purchased, and also programmed all of the waypoints into my GPS. I felt like I was ready.

Continue reading “Sparkleberry Unfiltered”

2011 Lowcountry Unfiltered Congaree Swamp Stomp

Lowcountry Unfiltered at Congaree

It was the first second Saturday of 2011, and my friends from Lowcountry Unfiltered decided to brave another swamp stomp in the Congaree Swamp National Park. We did this once before in January a couple of years ago. At that time it had been raining all week, and we had one of the coldest, wettest hikes we’ve ever experience. This time around it was cold, but fortunately much dryer.

Last time we wandered around with a vague notion of where we wanted to go.  This time we had a target, or, more appropriately, targets.  We were looking for champion trees, and we wanted to see how many we could find before we wore ourselves out. Continue reading “2011 Lowcountry Unfiltered Congaree Swamp Stomp”