Cedar Creek, South Carolina, June 2002
Jen and I returned to the Cedar Creek, site of our most difficult paddle last year. It was a different beast this year; the creek had been cleared and the water level was very low. The local drought had taken the bite out of it almost to the point where we couldn't paddle it at all. And Sean, part of our paddling group, had spent the summer of 2001 clearing the deadfalls and strainers from the creek.
Richard from Myrtle Beach, a TV reporter, was interested in the Congaree Swamp, and Steve K. and Kate W. arranged to take him into the swamp. Jen and I decided to tag along. I was curious to see what equipment he'd be using and how he'd handle a camera in a canoe.
The weather was perfect. A hot sun beat down but the trees and foliage of the creek kept things cool and shady for the most part. We had a small group of four kayaks and one canoe. Kate took Richard in the canoe. She paddled while he filmed. The rest of us just sort of paddled along, stopping at interesting places.
Sean was finding snakes at a steady pace. Unlike the nearby Bates Old River, where most of the snakes were brown water snakes, this time the predominate snake was the venomous cottonmouth. After he saw the first two, he stopped yelling out about them so as not to scare the folks in TV land. But our total for the day was something like eight cottonmouths and only two brown water snakes. I got some OK pictures, but will have to go back with some telephoto lenses to get closer to the snakes while maintaining my distance from their fangs. :)
After interviewing Steve and Kate along the creek's edge, Richard was ready to go. They paddled back while Jen, Sean, and I kept heading downstream. We took it easy, checking out a couple more snakes, and we reached an area where the low water and deadfalls sort of ended our route. We stopped for lunch on the shore, careful to avoid hollow treestumps.
We met up again with Kate and Steve while paddling back upstream. It was a nice lazy trip back to the put-in. We wheeled our boats back to the parking lot on Steve's cool boat carts.
Jen and I stopped by the new visitors' center for the Congaree Swamp National Monument. It's a huge improvement over their old place, and it's definitely worth a visit. The swamp is beautiful.
The USGS map for this area isn't very exciting, so the small map will do. We basically paddled the majority of the creek shown. The GPS track doesn't show up well. Download the GPS data.