In late November a half dozen intrepid canoe and kayak paddlers journeyed to South Carolina from Georgia to paddle the Edisto River Canoe Trail. This is a very pretty black water river with a very good current. We met up Friday night at Givhens Ferry State Park. We had talked about a short run Friday, but by the time most of us arrived and recovered from the long drive from Atlanta we opted for a different adventure.

Robert Harris , our GCA trip coordinator, asked me if I had the coordinates of any geocaches in the area. Why yes I do. So the five us with two GPS units began our hike to find a couple of geocaches. David B. and Wayne had been Geocaching before. Darlene H was new to the sport. Essentially people find things in the woods and then share the coordinates and some clues with fellow cachers. The object is to find what they have hidden, usually a container with a log book and a bunch of trinkets. We found the first one after a rambling hike. We all signed the log but took nothing as we didn’t have anything to trade.

The second geocache eluded us. As we were milling about, a couple with their dog approached us and asked if we were caching. Then told us they had not been able to find this one after several attempts. So Wayne led us unerringly by dead reckoning through the woods back to camp. We picked up firewood on the way.

Brannen P, stuck at work, probably had not yet left Atlanta when we finished our supper of hotdogs and kraut. We planned to get up at six A.M. to be on the river by eight. Day one was 21 to 23 miles depending on whose count you believed. We took a night hike back to the park entrance to see if Brannen was stuck at the gate since it closes at 6PM. After a quick vote we acknowledged that he was, in fact, mostly grown and could take care of himself.

Waking up at six, we were pleased to see that Brannen had arrived sometime during the night. We built a fire, drank coffee, ate cereal and rounded up our gear. We did not have to set a shuttle because we were paddling into camp in the afternoon.

The launch went off without a hitch and everyone was warmly dressed on this cold day. We launched at the boat ramp across from Colleton State Park. There are duck house that mark the miles along the river. I am not sure if they mark river miles or straight miles. Seems some are closer together than others. We saw some wildlife including a four foot long snake that was swimming the river on a cold day. David and I spooked a six point buck that was lying on the bank amongst the willows. I think he would have watched us pass by had I not pointed him out to David.

The river was high and there were very few sand bars to be seen. Quite a few big cypresses can be seen but like in most places those old ones generally are missing the tops. That is why the loggers spared them. There are some very interesting bluffs on the river here as well. We arrived back at Givhens Ferry about 4:30. The current and a bit of paddling will net you a respectable 4 mph. We drug our canoes and kayaks onto the shore and locked them to a big tree with cable locks. Tomorrow morning this would be the put in.

After we ran shuttle, those that wanted to grabbed a shower. I met a couple from Minnesota, Carl and Jan, noting a canoe on their van. They were looking to paddle a lake a few towns away. We extended a bit a southern hospitality in the form of an invite to come along with us tomorrow. From our camp we rounded up the paddlers to drive to a nearby town to an all you can eat BBQ place that was scored six thumbs up (In SC they serve “hash” with BBQ. It is similar to Brunswick stew). With full tummies and sore backs we returned to our lounge chairs and camp fire. I don’t know what happened thereafter as I slept in my chair by the fire for a while then got up and crawled into my sleeping bags.

Six A.M. again. We kicked the fire and made coffee. Then a brief flurry of rain drops got everyone breaking camp like mad people. Carl and Jan dropped by to say they wanted to paddle with us so I told them where to drop their gear at our put in. Once camp was packed we went to the put in and packed our boats. We set shuttle and took most vehicles to the take out. Wayne and Robert had paddled tandem yesterday but chose to paddle solo boats today.

Everyone got rain gear? Okay let’s launch. Carl and Jan belong to a canoe club in Minnesota where they live on Lake Superior. They were a nice addition to the trip. They joked that our 45 degree and drizzling weather was like a summer day to them. It must be true because they seemed pleased with the adventure. We did not see much wild life on this day unless you count the yellow lab that followed us by swimming for several hundred yards. Or the locals who were shooting skeet over the river, they stopped to let us pass. Or the strange guy we met at a boat ramp who claimed he was following drug runners.

There are no miles marking duck boxes on this stretch of the river so we were still estimating that we were making 4mph. The boat ramp is on a Long Creek on river right. It is not on the Edisto River but on a tributary. Once you get to it, it is easy to find. The sign is a good clue. But until you actually get there every meander and tributary looks like a possible route to the Long Creek boat ramp. No one had bothered to mark the boat ramp in their GPS unit. Brannen gets a platinum at-a-boy for locating the take out. And that’s all I got say about that.

We loaded our gear onto the waiting vehicles and returned to Givhens Ferry in the pouring rain. I injured my foot at one of the boat ramps and I’d like thank my fellow paddlers for helping me get Big Red on top of my truck. At Givhens we tried our best to make sure all the gear found its rightful owner. With handshakes and wet ponchos, we all headed for home, another great river adventure shared with a great group of paddlers.

by Vincent Payne
From The Eddy Line, January 2010