A Marine, a preacher, a botanist and a banker take to the river...
That might sound like the punchline of a very lame joke but in reality this is just a normal gathering of my friends and me on one of the most beautiful and legendary rivers in South Carolina. The Edisto River flows from near Orangeburg to the sea and it carries with it the tides of history, wild nature and adventure -- a winding waterway stained the color of sweet Southern iced tea.
The Edisto River is one of the longest free-flowing blackwater rivers in the United States. Named for a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the Lowcountry along its cypress-crowded banks, the river drains from springs deep in the sandhills to cut a path across the coastal plain and be embraced by the marshy expanses of the island-filled coast. Along its shores, you will find river settlements that range from weekend river houses to rustic hermitages and even a luxury treehouse or two. At last, two vibrant and accommodating state parks take advantage of the waterway, providing endless fun for campers, fishermen and family getaways. All the while, it flows unvexed to the sea beneath the Carolina sun, as not a single dam impedes its progress.
As a destination there are many ways to enjoy the majestic Edisto River. It is close enough to Bluffton to provide a great daytrip or a fun overnight stay at one of the parks. Public boat landings can be found at regular intervals along the river, allowing even the most casual boater or recreation-minded adventurer an enjoyable time on the water. Small boats, kayaks and rafts make up most of the river's traffic today, where Indian canoes and plantation flatboats once parted the waters. A growing fashion on the river involves innertube and raft gatherings of floaters. These conglomerations take on the feel of waterborne parties and can span the river from bank to bank during peak summer weekends with participants of all ages getting in on the fun.
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The best way to experience the Edisto is to seek out the quiet, unobtrusive path provided by small boat or kayak. To put into the river at some remote landing paddle in hand and a nice lunch packed away ensures the true seizing of the day and the promise of sights previously unseen and the continual mystery of what lies just around the next bend. Swampy creeks and forgotten oxbows challenge the borders of your known world and white sandbars, kissed by the clear river beckon you to stop and enjoy the sound of birds and the chill of a river that always seems cool even in the hottest seasons.
Recently, my friends and I paddled several sections of the Edisto. We were rewarded, as always, by the both the natural world and the good company of like-minded people. Rope swings can be found at intervals along the river banks and though it is all play-at-your-own-risk, provided welcome diversion from the world of email, iPhones and the weekly world news.
There may not be an app for adventure, but you will find it on the Edisto River no matter what.