North Fork Edisto River

Mike on the North Fork Edisto
Last Monday I joined the Palmetto Paddlers for a trip to the North Fork of the Edisto River. This river joins up with the South Fork near Branchville to form the Main Stem of the Edisto (it then later splits again into the North and South Edisto rivers near the coast).

We paddled the popular section from Shillings Bridge (Orangeburg County road 74) to the Orangeburg Memorial Gardens. It was my first chance to paddle this section and it was very enjoyable. Paddling South Carolina says that this section (to 301-601) is 7 miles and should take 2.5 hours. After it was over, we were on the water for nearly 8 hours and my GPS claims it was 8.5 miles. Deadfalls, low water, and a leisurely pace all contributed to our trip time. But it’s something to consider if you were to run this section during a time of year when the days are shorter.

It was a hot day but there was plenty of shade under the verdant trees surrounding the narrow river. There were only a few sections where you were out in the sun for very long. The river was loaded with fallen trees. I think I was able to get around all of them without leaving my kayak, but some were fairly tricky, and occasionally we needed the help of a saw, or a shove from another paddler. Many of the downed trees were covered in poison ivy, and more dangled down from overhead branches. It was not something I expected to deal with on the water. I had gloves, but a long-sleeved sunshirt would have been a good idea. Another pitfall was the periodic wasp nests that were hanging from low branches. A couple paddlers were stung as they drifted by.

Cottonmouth / Water Moccasin
We saw lots of wildlife, mainly birds and snakes. Sean, a master snake spotter, found plenty of them, including a tiny rough green snake. Most of the other 23 snakes spotted that day were brown water snakes. We did come across one cottonmouth while trekking through the swamp looking for great blue heron nests. There were several nesting herons in a big cypress. The other birds we spotted that day were smaller, including kingfishers and prothonotary warblers.

Most of this section is wild and secluded. As you get closer to Orangeburg, some houses start to pop up and later you pass a lot of houses and other properties. In one area near the end, we came across some serious clear-cutting. Acres of trees near the river had been removed with noisy machines and the smell of cut timber was on the air. Not a cool thing to see on any day, but surprising to see on a holiday.

This was a fun paddle and I hope the river can remain wild despite the nearby development.

Click here for a map of the trip.

Thanks to Lee Olson for the photo of me.