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.