Saluda River, April 2003
With some family in town to help watch my newborn son, I jumped at the chance to paddle the middle section of the Saluda River. Plus this trip was about as close to my house as a Palmetto Paddlers trip would ever get.
The Columbia guys call it the "upper" Saluda, but I consider it the middle since there's a good bit of the river above Lake Greenwood to paddle as well.
It was a cloudy and cool morning as I made my way down to Chappells to meet with the group. I was truly surprised by the turnout...we ended up with a group of fourteen boats and sixteen paddlers (4 canoes and 10 kayaks), one of the biggest groups I've paddled with.
Joe W., the trip organizer, had gotten permission to put-in to the river on some private hunt-club land, which saved us about 10 miles from putting in at the Lake Greenwood dam.
The put-in was 100 yards or more from the parking lot, across a bumpy and very muddy field. Big knobby transport wheels were helpful. We got our boats set up and went back to run the shuttle. As we were making the shuttle, the rain started to come down hard. By the time we returned to the put-in, the heavy rain had quit but it had soaked our companions who had waited there.
The rains would continue for most of the trip, but we were there and it was time to paddle. It took a while for all of us to get our boats into the water, and many of us worked the quick current while waiting to get started. Around noon, everyone was on the water, we moved off in a hurry, a colorful array of boats and paddlers on a gray day.
We drifted with the current for a while, floating in the muddy waters. It was early spring and things were beginning to green up, but the trees were not fully covered in leaves yet. Aside from a house early on, this stretch of the river was undisturbed and peaceful. Joe had noted that the middle Saluda has very few public access points, which probably explained why we had the river to ourselves.
The sky got lighter and darker with the thickness of the clouds, and the rain was spotty. Just enough to keep me from getting dry, and I realized I should've brought some slightly-heavier clothes.
We stopped at about 1:30 for lunch, on a steep sandy slope on the north side of the river. The rain continued but we had the shelter of some trees. We ate on Kate's tarp and tried not to slide down the hill. Just as we were finishing up, the sun started to peek through the cloudcover. Soon we were back on the water, headed downstream.
Two minutes down the river we started to come across some flat sandy "beaches" that would have made better stops for lunch, but who knew? Most of the group stopped on one of these sandbars to pose for a group photo, which Kate wanted to put in a Palmetto Paddlers flyer. I took the photo, and then went into the woods to use the "facilities." Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a flash of orange, and looked down to see a turtle in the brush. It was mostly dark brown, but with orange eyes and scales on its legs. I ran back to my kayak for my camera, and it was still there when I returned, patiently awaiting to be photographed. After conferring with Gene Ott (a reptile hobbyist on the South Carolina Reptiles & Amphibians website), I learned it was a red-orange form of the common Eastern Box Turtle.
We saw a couple snakes on the river, found once again by our snake expert Sean. Both were harmless brown water snakes. Not so harmless to handle them on the water though, as Sean backed his kayak into a tight spot on the first one, and the second one decided to spray him with its defensive musk!
The day got nicer as we continued, and we could tell we were nearing civilization when we started to see fishing boats coming upstream. We passed by some sort of pump station near Silverstreet and passed under the Highway 121 bridge. Then there was a sign and a little inlet for the Saluda River Resort, a private campground where we took out. Just as we were packing up to head home, the the sun decided to show itself. But we'd had a good river trip nonetheless.
Total trip distance was about 14.5 miles.