Tips for safely navigating our tidal waters
What would the perfect Lowcountry kayaking experience be like?
First, you would have a day with perfect weather: sunny with a few clouds and 75 degree temperatures. You would have a soft breeze to keep the bugs away and create diamond sparkles on the water while not blowing hard strongly enough to impede progress while you paddle.
The ever-present Lowcountry tides would be timed just right to allow you to paddle with the current and not fight against the flow while giving you plenty of water underneath to explore quiet creeks and canals as you journey.
Most importantly, a perfect Lowcountry kayaking experience would take you through a beautiful landscape of coastal scenery filled with abundant wildlife and interesting historic places to see and visit along the way.
An outdoor destination in the Lowcountry fits this pleasing image, and it is only a short drive from Beaufort County and home.
Quinby Creek near Charleston is a short, tidal waterway that is ideal for kayakers of any skill level and is easily accessible year-round.
Quinby Creek makes up part of the Cooper River headwaters and is both a place where you can observe wildlife and the beautiful Lowcountry landscape, and a region of important historical significance.
During colonial times, dozens of prosperous plantations sprang up along its shores as the Carolinas became a stronghold for coastal agriculture and a vital economic powerhouse.
The cypress swamps of the blackwater creeks and rivers were cut down and replaced by vast flooded fields of rice. The high, muddy dikes of these fields worked with the tide and spring floods to bring a cash crop that would make South Carolina the envy of the world and cement the shame of slavery into its past.
Plantations with names like Rice Hope, Comingtee, and Hyde Park were constructed in styles that blended European elegance, West Indian comfort and Carolina practicality. Churches and chapels were built strategically among them and swampy Lowcountry roads connected them all.
Waterways like Quinby Creek were a thoroughfare for travel as well as commerce. Flatboats, schooners and dugout canoes plied the waters of the Lowcountry and when war and revolution came to the region, armies marched and fought along its banks and on plantation lawns.
As a paddling destination, Quinby Creek is well suited in that its winding channel flows through a region rich with all of this history as well as being a quiet, scenic waterway where you can experience flights of ducks and herons, and spot the ever-present alligator on patrol.
On the water
For a relatively easy eight-mile paddle, put in on Huger Creek at the public landing at the Huger Recreation Area. This is a well-maintained location managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and access to the river is very easy.
From the landing you will pass beneath a railroad bridge, but after that the signs of modern civilization diminish.
As you descend the creek you will emerge from swampy forests where wild azalea blooms and prothonotary warblers call in the treetops, to the open spaces of the former rice plantation fields.
Now given almost completely to wildlife management, these open places are the home of wading birds, fish and alligators. These territorial denizens of Lowcountry waters eye you warily as you pass and are a reminder of a more ancient time when other beasts ruled the earth.
At four miles, you will come to a confluence where Quinby Creek joins the Huger and together form part of the Cooper River.
You may turn left onto Quinby Creek for a 1.5-mile paddle to the bridge to take out — or proceed another mile down the Cooper to view a unique historic site.
Rising from a grassy bank on the southern shore of the river you will encounter Pompion Hill Chapel of Ease. Curiously pronounced “Pumpkin Hill,” this small, brick church was built in 1763 to serve colonial and plantation families in the region, and survives both as an excellent example of Georgian architecture and one of the few surviving structures of its day.
Set on a remote back road, it is not readily accessible by the public on the landward side, but visitors on the river can view the old church with ease.
A small, oak-shaded churchyard is filled with flower-covered graves, and the building is lovingly maintained. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
If the tide and breeze are still in your favor you can turn and ascend the river once again. At the confluence of Quinby and Huger Creeks, take a right onto Quinby Creek for a takeout at Hamer Landing and the historic Quinby Bridge.
At this place in 1781, colonial troops under General Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion attacked a force of retreating British redcoats. The battle raged along the road and across the bridge to the buildings of a nearby plantation where the British formed a defense and nearly turned the tide on the Americans.
Though a colonial victory, the resulting bloodshed was so great that General Marion, also known as “The Swamp Fox” resolved never to serve under General Sumter again and instead stay with his more proven guerrilla tactics that had earned him his name and success so far. Not much of the battle remains, but as you end your journey on a historic waterway you will be reminded that the beauty of the Lowcountry is mixed with a storied past.
Whether you wish to explore nature, history or a combination of both, a paddling trip on Quinby Creek is good for all skill levels and sure to bring you a perfect Lowcountry kayaking experience.
Huger Landing and Hamer Landing at Quinby Bridge are located near Huger, S.C., and are very easy to access. From Beaufort County there are a couple of ways to go to get there. You can take U.S. 17A from Walterboro through Summerville to Monck’s Corner. From Monck’s Corner, cross the canal to S.C. 402. Head south on Hwy. 402 for approximately 10 miles to Huger Recreation Area. This drive takes about two hours with traffic encountered mostly in Summerville as you cross Interstate 26.
The boat ramps are open year-round, dawn to dusk. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen and other items as there are no facilities.
It is good to check the tides and weather, or you can engage a local outfitter service for a tour or guide on the river.
For more information on Quinby Creek and access, go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/scnfs/recarea/?recid=47295.
For information on Pompion Hill Chapel of Ease, check out www.nationalregister.sc.gov