May 21, 2015

Canoe Trail Aiken State Park, Edisto River, South Carolina

May 2015:   Winds:  12 - 14 mph   Water Level:  7' 
South Fork of the Edisto River -  1 3/4 mile from launch to take-out dock
75 minute trip by experienced kayaker going slow

I decided I was ready for my first solo kayak trip.

I have polycythemia vera, a rare blood disorder with a twenty-year shelf life, and was coming off a normal three-day fling of fatigue.  I needed fresh air, sun, water, birds, mud and snakes.  In other words.... no humans.  I've learned that if I just roll with the fatigue when it hits, sleep 12 hours straight, take some time off work, it'll pass with little notice..... and a little lovin' care by my daughters.

Choosing a waterway with which I am well familiar, I checked the weather, the wind and the water levels.  I notified the adorable park ranger (so young!) that I was headed out alone.  I asked him about the navigation and he assured me it was typical.  No surprises this trip.  He was right.

I put in at the top of the canoe trail and the water level was hovering below 7 feet.  I prefer 8 feet, but felt confident 7 would be deep enough for the submerged logs and shallow enough for the low trees.  An ice storm hit a couple winters ago that made the water impassable.  My husband and I navigated the jon boat while our good friend Doug ripped a trail through the river with his chainsaw.

At 7 feet, I had some stump-jumping to do.  The first one caught me off guard and I approached it at an angle.  My adrenaline performed magnificently and I got myself straightened out after only two or three seconds of being out of control.  The second and third jumpers came as no surprise, I hit them straight on and wiggled my way across.

I remained silent most of the trip so I could see and hear the animals in their natural habitat.  At times, I made some noises before passing under low hanging branches that might contain snakes.  I saw one snake and he let me pass comfortably.  I heard three other snakes plop into the water from their lofty branches several feet before I passed under.  Always be aware of the snake on the low branch that might jump into your boat.

The 12 - 14 mph wind.  OK, let's talk wind.  12 - 14 mph feels nice, a cool breeze.  However, when you are alone on the water, floating under broken tree limbs that creak as you pass by..... 12 - 14 mph feels like 50 mph.  I expected to see Jim Cantore around the next corner in his rain gear, dangling off a branch shouting at me to evacuate, for crying out loud EVACUATE!

But that didn't happen.  12 - 14 mph winds are perfect for a kayak trip on the Edisto.  If you paddle on the lower part of the Edisto, be sure to check the tides.  There's no reason to paddle against the tide both ways unless you just want to..... or plain don't know better.  (ask me how I know this)

I saw one other boat on the water, a lovely couple fishing in a jon boat....

As I paddled by they asked if anyone was upstream behind me.  I smiled, "No, not a soul," thinking they'd have great fishing possibilities.  Then I heard banjo music.  I thought how stupid I was - I should have said, "Yes, my big, burly husband and his big, burly friend are right behind me with their big, burly pistol."  Instead, I just paddled faster.

Perfect water levels for both canoe and kayak are around 8'.   There are a few downed logs that you either need to go under or over, depending on the water level.  When the level prevents either, the park will close the trail.

The park has times when they rent canoes or kayaks and give you a lift to the put-in while you leave your vehicle at the take-out.   Call ahead.  If you have your own boat, you can go beyond the park's take-out, but the next road access is about 15 river miles down at Keadle Bridge.  If you decide to go past the park's take-out, be sure to let the park rangers know your float plan. FYI, I've put in at Keadle Bridge and paddled upstream for 45 minutes or so.  As of late June, 2015, I could not paddle down stream at Keadle due to a fallen tree.

The Edisto river is endangered.  To support the life of this blackwater river, join the efforts of Friends of the Edisto or Edisto Concerns.

The Aiken State Park Canoe Trail
Aiken State Park

Blackwater Festival 2015 is coming back to Aiken State Park on Saturday, June 20th, 10 - 4.  Music, BBQ and more.  Come out to visit others, support the river and float down it if you'd like.

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