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A collection of photography and exploration focusing on Upstate South Carolina and beyond.
This trip almost didn’t happen. Actually, it was supposed to have happened back in July, our traditional date for the annual Lowcountry Unfiltered Rope Swing and Beer Commercial Float on the Edisto River. However, the second Saturday in July had the highest river levels seen on the Edisto in years. It was a no-go. Even delaying a week didn’t help. The river stayed at flood stage, so we were forced to seek out an alternate trip on Lake Marion.
So, we decided to try again in August. The second Saturday came, and the waters were still high, but no so much as to make the trip impossible. I got up early and drove on down to the meeting point at Givhens Ferry State Park. Two new guys, Jim and Dan Hill, were there waiting for me. Soon the rest of the guys showed up. We redistributed boats, then drove up to our put-in at Mars Old Field Landing. Ultimately, there were nine of us on this trip – a good number. John Nelson turned on his charm and drafted a young lady to take our group photo.
The water was high, but not as high as when I had dropped by and photographed the put-in back in July. There was still quite a bit of current, and was not something to take lightly. Right off the bat there was trouble. Jim’s father, Dan, was not an experienced paddler, and ran into problems with boat control right away. He hit the trees and flipped within sight of the launch.
Fortunately, Dan was able to recover, and it was only a momentary setback. He was a bit rattled after the spill, but eventually gained confidence as the trip progressed.
This trip has gotten to be known as the “Rope Swing and Beer Commercial Float” for good reason. James Brown brought samples of his latest River Dog Beer, and this section of the Edisto has the best rope swings. Just a few yards down from the launch is the first and best of them. We had to stop.
…and here’s a bit of video…
Every time someone landed in the water it was an effort to get back over to the shore because of the strong current. Since this was the best of the swings, we lingered quite awhile before moving on.
The weather was nearly perfect. It was warm and humid, but the skies were clear. Looked like it was going to be a great day on the Edisto. We had seen one other group (including our photographer friend) set out in kayaks, but other than that, we seemed to have the place to ourselves. I guess others were still thinking the river was high, which it was.
Because the water was so high, we could paddle back into some of the swampier areas. That delayed our downstream progress even more, as we stopped to explore different areas along the way.
Soon enough we were back on track, though. We were making good time. It was amazing to see how high the water was. We had never noticed the small shelters on the east bank of the river all along the way. One of our group speculated that the land was owned by some lumber company that had put up the shelters. However, one had the name of a river outfitting group on it. With the high water, we could actually paddle under a couple of them. This next video clip shows how high the water was in relation to some of the houses, and how quickly we were moving. It also shows some of the hazards we encountered.
The problem with high water is that all of our favorite sandbars were submerged. We couldn’t find a place to stop for lunch. Even some of the higher areas above the waterline were not suitable because they were either mud fields or had standing puddles. We kept paddling.
There is a point along the river where several houses line the west bank, and the river makes a wide bend to the right. There’s always a wide sandbar there, and we hoped to find a spot at that point. We found a narrow sandbar, but it was enough. We beached the boats, and Matt broke out the stove and started cooking the bratwurst and krauts. That, coupled with samples of James’s Witt Beer and Pale Ale, was nothing short of river perfection.
The posted sign in that last shot was for any land above the high water mark. We were OK on the beach, so we decided to hang out a bit. It was a perfect day to cool our heels.
Since this was the “Beer Commercial Float”, we tried to get some shots of the product. I captured these two of James…
…and a couple of underwater shots of his River Dog T-Shirt…
Reluctantly, we got back into the boats and headed on downstream. We still had the whole river to ourselves. A couple of small motor boats were taking advantage of the higher water to navigate the river. For the most part these folks were considerate of paddlers on the river.
You would have thought that the deeper water would have been good for the rope swings. However, that was not the case. The swings would drag the top of the water, and were less effective. You couldn’t swing out and drop, but you hit the water at the bottom of the swing. At one point Matt gave up and just jumped in.
When our last favorite rope swing turned out to be a bust, we headed on downstream, but this time with a twist. Matt and James decided they didn’t need boats anymore, and just floated alongside the whole way down to the take out.
I didn’t jump in, but I just floated along with them. A water cannon fight ensued, as James tried to use his boat as a shield. We did see one other group of floaters – five tubes and three kayaks. They joined us for the leisurely float down to the take out.
Traditionally we would explore Four Holes Swamp, but this time we skipped it. We had turned into Float Bubbas ourselves. It was fun, and relaxing. With the swift current we were at Givhens Ferry before we knew it, and it was time to take the boats out. It was a great day out on the river. Even though the rope swings were a disappointment (except for the first one) it was a nearly perfect day on the river. Here are the rest of the photos and video clips from that trip…