I thought I had kayaked some of the most beautiful sections of the Edisto River until this winter, when I joined a group of friends for a paddle on the North Fork of the Edisto near Orangeburg
The longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America, the Edisto runs 250 miles from its origins in Saluda
counties to the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the surrounding wilderness is bottom swampland flush with cypress and tupelo trees. The tannin released by decomposing plant matter in the cypress swamps is what gives the water its brownish color.
Because the river flows through so much swampland, you won’t see a lot of development along its banks. The section we paddled was particularly remote and scenic with lots of side channels and shortcuts that put you among the towering trees.
Twisting through the forest under a canopy of buttressed cypress, the river takes you a world away from the stresses of modern day life. Traffic is limited to the occasional deer running through the woods. The only twittering going on here is of the avian variety.
It was a heavenly escape to serenity. Except for our small group of paddlers, there was not another soul in sight. Not even a lone fisherman.
That’s probably because the narrow, winding river offers plenty of natural obstacles to keep all but the most determined boater away. We were constantly dodging Mother Nature’s discards — in the water and overhead. Floating limbs and low-hanging branches make it difficult for even john boats to get through, reserving the waterway for kayakers and canoeists with some advanced paddling skills.
At one point, even we were denied passage by a large pine tree that had fallen across the river. We had to climb on top of the log and lift our boats over the tree trunk to continue on our way.
We got out of our boats one other time to have lunch on one of the few accessible areas of high ground. In total, we paddled about 11 miles from the Slab Landing Bridge to Shillings Bridge Road.
Five hours of stress-busting bliss.
If you’re in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to paddle the Edisto. It’s the quintessential Lowcountry
river with nary a dam to obstruct the flow of its clear black water.