The Saluda at Piedmont
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.
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…