Broad River, June 30, 2001
Braving the heat and humidity of late June here in South Carolina, I joined up with three others from the Palmetto Paddlers for a trip on the Broad River, about halfway between Columbia and Spartanburg. Steve S.'s guidebook said the trip would be 16 miles, a bit much for a comfortable day trip. So our intention was to spend the night somewhere on the river, and Steve had obtained the proper permit from the Forest Service.
The four of us, Brian O., Steve, his son Matt, and I arrived around 9:30 am at the landing just below SC 34. The water looked a bit low, suprising to me given how much rain we'd had in Greenwood lately. It was humid and partly cloudy with a light breeze. I had brought my camping gear along for my first overnight trip. We managed to get two kayaks on top of Steve's car with his canoe and headed for the put-in. It was a bit frightening to see how much my polyethelene kayak would warp when it wasn't supported precisely at the bulkheads. At least it warped back to the right shape!
The Sandy River access put-in was just off of SC 72 and down a mile or so of gravel forest road. We arrived and after dousing ourselves in sunscreen, were soon ready to get out on the water. We shoved off into the muddy waters and began our journey south. The few fishermen at the beginning of our trip were the last humans we'd see for several peaceful hours.
The low river added a few obstacles to our course. Near the start, we saw large rocks several feet out of the water, but most of the way the rocks waited just below the surface, causing an unexpected bump now and then. The generally big, slow water, was punctuated at several points by some mild rapids. Matt attempted to fish the flat spots from the canoe, but only came up with a couple nibbles. But a few gar splashed us to let us know they were there.
Other wildlife abounded, given the hot and sunny weather. A large snake basking on a tree limb, and another swimming easily across the wide river. Several turtles, including one that had somehow ended up on its back on a rock in the rapids. Brian gave it a little nudge with the paddle to right it. We saw several great blue herons and osprey, but the highlight was definitely the two or three bald eagles that tagged along our path.
We started getting hungry around noon, but ran into the problem of having no good place to stop. We paddled for almost an hour looking, but the river banks were steep and packed with foliage. Eventually we found a small sandbar barely out of the water. You couldn't stand too long in one place or you'd sink a bit in the syrupy sand. I had a good appetite and could have almost eaten my entire food pack. But I figured to save some for camping, though the chances of that were diminishing. According to my GPS, we had covered 5 miles and had about 7 left to go. So much for the guidebook's 16 miles.
It soon became apparent that we weren't going to find a place to camp. The shoreline didn't vary much as we headed south...more steep slopes and trees. We headed down the eastern side of Henderson Island; who knows if the western side would have offered a campsite? Eventually we passed the confluence with the Enoree River, and then we were past the forest lands where we could camp anyway.
The clouds had rolled in for our last couple miles, and the sky began to turn a gray-blue. Thunder rumbled in the distance while we paddled steadily on the widest part yet, no current to help. A few sprinkles turned into good shower as we passed under the SC 34 bridge. The takeout was close, and as we beached our boats on the ramp, the shower mostly let up. It was a little after 4 pm, and we'd covered 11.8 miles according to my GPS. It rained lightly as we packed up our gear and during our trip back to get Steve's car at the put-in.
Despite the lack of campsites and the rain, we had a good time. It's nice to know there are still places you can go and see almost no evidence of human activity.
Brian thought I could put my GPS data to good use, so after a lot of messing around, I was able to produce a map of our trip. You can also download the data if you want.
After a close call with my good camera on the Cedar Creek trip, I decided to take the cheap digital again. The pictures aren't very sharp, but it's nice not to have to worry about the good one sometimes.