Stumphole Swamp, South Carolina, March 2002
We joined a Palmetto Paddlers trip on a beautiful Saturday, sunny and 60s. The Stumphole Swamp is in the middle of upper Lake Marion, south of the Sparkleberry Swamp, and is a similar environment of winding water and cypress trees, but much more open.
We put-in from the Stumphole Landing near Lone Star. There was a nice turnout, nine of us paddling seven kayaks and one canoe. From the ramp, you could see the swamp in the distance across a stretch of open water. Crossing to the swamp was easy on the flatwater, and we were joined by hundreds of tree swallows performing aerial acrobatics just above the surface of the water.
We crossed a border of sorts and entered the swamp. The cypress trees were all protruding directly out of the water...no land to be seen. I had expected the area to be uninhabited, but it seems that there is a fair amount of human activity. We paddled by many floating shacks moored to trees. Most shacks had a porch for fishing and a small enclosed living area. Apparently the state considers these to be boats, because each of them had a SC license number on the side.
It was early spring, and you could see hints of new green, but it was still subtle. The real show in the swamp was the birdlife. This was easily the best birding-kayaking trip I've been on so far. We saw numerous osprey nests in the top of tall, dead trees. Parents were running errands, delivering fresh catches to their young. Cormorants perched on branches all over the place. I had never seen an Anhinga in South Carolina until this trip. It was a real treat to see the birds I'm used to seeing in the Everglades.
There was no specific trail to follow, so we just spent hours meandering through the open swamp. The trees blocked out the chilly breeze and it was an enjoyable paddle in the sun. We saw many turtles taking advantage of the weather and basking on logs. With no dry land in sight, our group parked at a few downed trees and tied up to eat lunch.
We paddled for a while after lunch, then the group split up...half of us paddled back to the put-in, and the other half stayed on a while longer. Jen and I went back with the first group. It was an enjoyable day on the water, and a place worth returning to. Thanks to Steve Kelsays for organizing the trip.