Back to Turkey and Stevens Creeks
Wednesday the 27th I met up with Brian O. for a winter paddle on the Turkey and Stevens Creeks. The creeks are only paddleable when rains bring the water level up. Christmas day rains peaked the Stevens Creek USGS gauge at just over 10 feet (rains three days earlier brought it to 12 feet). Steep banks cause the depth to vary wildly, but the 2-4 foot range seems to be best for paddling. Our Wednesday run was at just above 4 feet. I last ran this stretch in February 2005, when the water was at about the same level. The weather wasn’t as nice as the last time; it was in the low to mid 50s, but the low sun, steep shady banks, and chilly breeze made it seem colder at times. We put in from some slippery, muddy steps near the Key Bridge and were underway at about 10:45am.
Of all the places I’ve paddled in South Carolina, I think the Turkey Creek is about my favorite paddling spot. It’s fairly close to home, has interesting geology and trees, and plenty of wildlife. I think the fact that it’s only occasionally paddleable helps to protect its resources.
It wasn’t long before we scared up several beavers. They would slip down the muddy banks and disappear in the water. I would scan the area for half a minute, but they didn’t resurface. Brian happened upon a swamp rabbit in a rocky nook beside the creek. I didn’t realize that they are a different species of rabbit, but they are. Wikipedia has a good writeup on them including an interesting bit of Presidential trivia. Fauna for the rest of the trip included more beavers, a buck deer, and a couple turtles.
Over the 7+ mile trip were maybe half a dozen small rapids and a couple slightly bigger ones. They kept things interesting. Brian spent time paddling back into them in his smaller boat while I took pictures. He found a couple small “holes” where you could sit in place and just use the paddle to keep your position. I tried a little upstream rapid paddling in my longer kayak, but usually the smallest divergence from paddling directly upcurrent would result in the water catching my bow and turning me downstream.
We had just passed some small rapids and were chatting when all of the sudden a strange current caught my stern and started turning my boat perpendicular to the current. The kayak quickly began to try to roll downstream. Fortunately I was able to brace with my paddle and get back upright just in time. I’d like to think some of that was the result of several years’ paddling experience, but it was probably also a lot of luck. At any rate I avoided a cold bath! We later realized that neither of us had carried a bilge pump, which I almost always have on the water.
We spotted the takeout and the Highway 23 bridge around 2:20pm and hauled our kayaks up the slippery steps and took the short trail (long when carrying a boat!) back to the parking area. It was a fun ride and a special piece of water.
There is so much beauty in these creeks that is hard to photograph while you’re moving at four miles per hour. I hope to take advantage of the normal low water level sometime and slog around with my better camera gear. But definitely not until it warms up!
Everyone have a happy new year!