Marie McAden



Rare Spider Lily still putting on a show

Posted 6/10/2013 12:35:00 PM

To make up for an unseasonably cool spring, Mother Nature might grace us with an extra week or two to enjoy one of her most beautiful botanical wonders — the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily.

The rare native wildflower, found only in a few select rivers in the Southeast, is now blooming on the Broad River in Columbia and some 25 acres along the Catawba River. Normally, we would be approaching the last days of the peak lily season. But with spring’s cold, wet weather, the aquatic perennial is expected to continue sprouting blossoms through the end of the month.

Spider lilies grow to about three feet tall and develop a bulb that lodges between rocks in the shoals. With its roots firmly anchored in the crevices, the hardy plants can survive seasonal floods to put on their annual showy display of delicate white blossoms.

In Columbia, several local outfitters offer guided spider lily kayak tours during the flowering season. They include:

* Adventure Carolina, (803) 796-4505

* Get Your Gear On, (803) 799-0999

* Palmetto Outdoor Center, (803) 360-4697

* River Runner Outdoor Center, (803) 771-0353

If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can launch below the diversion dam at the north end of Columbia’s Riverfront Park just east of the Broad River Bridge. There are a few small rapids near the put-in and lots of rocks you’ll need to navigate around down river. The closest take-out is just after the Gervais Street Bridge on the west side of the Broad.

The Broad’s flower show is modest compared to the spectacle on the Catawba River, home to the world’s largest population of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies. And you don’t need to board a boat to view the dazzling display. At Landsford Canal State Park, landlubbers can walk along the 1.5-mile Canal Trail to view huge clusters of the blossoms.

About half way down the pathway is the Lily Overlook. From this vantage point, the flowers stretch out over the water as far as the eye can see. The park also offers canoe and kayak access to the river for those who want to get an even closer look.

Catawba River Expeditions offers kayak rentals if you’re not traveling with your own boat. But you need to be an experienced paddler to kayak the spider lily section of the river as there are Class I and borderline Class II rapids through the length of the park. For more information or to make a reservation with Catawba River Expeditions, call (803) 327-9335 or click here.

Need directions to Lansford Canal State Park? Click here or call (803) 789-5800.