The Saluda at Piedmont

Tim on the Saluda

The weather forecast was for unseasonably warm weather with clear skies – perfect weather for paddling. My friend Tim Taylor joined me, and we headed for a new paddling venue. This time we were headed to Piedmont, SC, and to the Saluda River.

I was aware of this stretch from creating my Paddling Guide, but I hadn’t scouted it. The Greenville Canoe and Kayak Meetup did a paddle along this stretch last November, so I had seen their photographs. Since it was close and a section I hadn’t paddled, I decided to give it a try.

Piedmont across the lake

Tim and I loaded up the boats and drove on down to Piedmont. The town is a mill village with a dam on the Saluda River. It’s possible to put in above the dam and paddle upstream against the slight current, then return. Most of the trek is lake-like flat water paddling.

The put-in was a rather steep dirt road that led down to a public river access. The road was rough, and I wouldn’t recommend it for nice cars. Unfortunately, the area was very trashy. There was the detritus that normally washes down rivers, but it looked like people had been using the area as a dumping ground. Both the river and especially the mud at the put-in absolutely stunk. I was starting to have second thoughts about this trip.

On the river my mood improved. We first paddled toward the dam and the town. There were chains and barrels across the river preventing us from getting too close to the dam.

We soon headed back upstream, and I discovered I had an excellent paddling partner in Tim. Tim is a naturalist who works the Roper Mountain Science Center. As we paddled, he provided a running commentary, identifying trees, turtle species, and birds as these were encountered.

The river at this point is predictably wide and flat. There were houses along the way, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was still some wild areas.

We saw lots of turtles, lots of wood ducks, and even spotted a heron up on a nest. Unfortunately, I didn’t move my camera fast enough to catch the heron, but I did get the nest.

As the river narrowed the current increased, but it was still manageable going upstream. The banks alternated between having high rocky bluffs and flatter land. Soon we came to areas that were obviously farmland. One house sat far back on a hill with beautiful grounds leading down to the river.

Unfortunately, right on the other side of the house was an auto junkyard. This looked like part of the same farm since it was adjacent to the house.

The problem with doing a paddle-and-turn-around trip is in deciding where to turn around. The temptation is always to see what’s around the next bend. We spotted a wide sandy beach at a bend in the river and decided that would be our endpoint. There were houses on the bluff above on the Anderson County side of the river. Below was farm equipment, trailers, and chicken houses. Seemed as good a place as any to end our trip.

The return paddle went much faster with the current. It was surprising how quickly the river changed character from river-like to lake-like around one wide bend. We reached the take-out point after about five miles of paddling.

All-in-all it was a good trip. The trash was a concern, and next time I’m bringing garbage bags to try to pick up at least a little of it. Maybe someone can organize a river clean-up to preserve this resource. Here is the map of the trip…

View Saluda River 04-05-2010 in a larger map

Here are the rest of the photos from the paddling trip…

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Comments (6)

  1. Ken Cothran

    I saw a lot of the same sort of environmental trashing when in eastern Kentucky. There is a demographic of folks who don’t think in the same terms as we might about not trashing up the environment. I don’t know that such folks often change their minds about that. Clean-up might involve different people living in the area. At least from what I can tell.

    1. Tom (Post author)

      Laura’s sister’s strategy was to go ahead and clean up a particularly trashy area. When folks came and saw that the area was nice and neat, they tended to leave it that way. If they found it trashy, they wouldn’t think twice about adding more trash to the area.

      It might be worth some time invested as an experiment.

  2. Ken Cothran

    True. I hope it would work, as I’ve gotten a bit cynical about some of the human race.

  3. Bucky

    Your Paddling Guide appears to be off line.

    I have no experience kayaking, but am interested in learning on flat water.


  4. Tom (Post author)

    Bucky – the Paddling Guide is online. I just had the link in this post formatted incorrectly. That has been fixed, and I appreciate your catching it.

    As far as getting started, there are several great groups around that go on regular trips, and most welcome novices. You can check out the Greenville Canoe and Kayak Meetup, Palmetto Paddlers, and several others. If you do a Google search for these, they should turn up.

  5. Ty Houck


    I enjoyed the photos and comments. Also thought it funny how I know Tim Taylor. Stay tuned. I am working on a grant that would create a 9 mile river trail in this area. Would really like your support spreading the word of our efforts.

    Ty Houck
    Director of Greenways, Natural and Historic Resources
    Greenville County Recreation District


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