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.
I drove down the night before and stayed in my usual place in St. George. The next morning was incredibly foggy, but it looked like it was going to burn off. Heavy thunderclouds loomed over Charleston and just off the coast, but it looked like those would leave us alone. I headed on down to Stokes Bridge and was soon joined by John Nelson and Marc.
As we waited for the others to arrive, Marc managed to lock his keys in his car. We struggled with every technique possible short of breaking a window, and were finally able to pull his jeans through a crack in the window. Of course, the keys were not there, but were already safely hidden in a dry bag in his kayak. That was his partial initiation into the group.
Alan made it down for the trip, and soon the rest of the gang arrived. Unload boats, quick shuttle, and we were soon underway.
One of the folks for whom we had brought a spare boat couldn’t make it. Rather than leave it unattended at the take out, we decided to bring it with us. We loaded it with coolers and spare gear, and Matt pulled it along as a “beer boat.” We had become float bubbas.
The water was low, but we had paddled this section with it at about this level before. It was passable, but submerged logs were now a hazard.
Just around the first bend is a campground and an exposed limestone marl shelf. This is a favorite stop to sift for fossilized sharks’ teeth. The marl was very much exposed today, forming interesting shapes. As usual, the group stopped for awhile to see what they could find. This time I stayed in the boat and just hung out.
While waiting for the gang, those of us still in our boats noticed a disturbance. At first we weren’t sure if it was fish or an alligator. Huge carp were splashing in the shallow waters. I tried to catch a photo, but never could.
Eventually we got back underway. John Ring complained that the marl shelf looked picked over. Well, I guess if you stop there every time eventually it will get picked over.
At some point we came to a parting of the ways. Heading downstream right was a narrow channel that had me perplexed. The current was flowing INTO the channel, rather than the channel emptying into the river as a tributary would. This meant that it had to be an oxbow that eventually led back to the river. I almost got pinned against the bridge in the shallow water and narrow current, so I didn’t explore. John R. and Alan R. did push on through.
Just beyond that was another channel opening river left. This led deep into a cypress swamp. Alan E, John N and Chris took that route, and I followed them in a bit.
It was a beautiful shaded side channel, but I didn’t go too far into this route. I was concerned that our group was getting separated. I headed back out to find Marc on the bank. I asked if he had seen the others, and he said the rest were on down stream. I set off in pursuit.
After about a mile of quick paddling I had seen hide nor hair of the rest of the group. Since I knew at least several of them had to be behind me I paddled back to find them. Turns out EVERYONE was behind me – no one was on downstream.
Matt and the rest had also entered the swampy side channel and explored. John R and Alan R eventually made it through the oxbow, but not before fighting through deadfalls and doing one portage.
With the group intact, we continued our downstream trek. About half-way through the trip an old oxbow branches to the left, and there is a wide sandy beach. It made the perfect lunch stop. We beached the boats, sat in the water, and basically behaved like juveniles shooting water cannons at each other and throwing Frisbee.
Suitably refreshed we continued on our way in a very leisurely fashion.
Of course, the Edisto means rope swings, and this trip was no different. We found a good one on Westvaco property. The water was too shallow for diving, but not for splashing.
About this time we started to hear thunder upstream. The last Edisto trip in June (which I missed since I was in Florida) the guys got caught in a storm, and it looked like that might be the case today. However, it held off.
The last stretch of the river we saw a good bit of wildlife. A heron and an egret kept us company, and a huge osprey kept a wary eye on us as we paddled past. Unfortunately, I didn’t get good shots of any.
With the water this low, we did have a few obstacles. Along this stretch we hit some major deadfalls and strainers. Fortunately we always found a way through or around. We also saw exposed stretches of beach that aren’t visible at higher water.
It seemed like we reached Mars Old Field quicker than usual. We found a party in full swing.
Another successful trip under our belts, we loaded up the boats and headed back home. On the way home I hit the storms we had been hearing on the last bit of our paddle. I was glad I wasn’t out on a river during that deluge.