Kayaking on the Edisto | Walterboro Live
By Vicki Brown
Everyone seems to be looking for something new to do in our more relaxed post-Covid world, so why not plan a kayaking trip?
Following the Edisto River canoe and kayak trail is the perfect summer vacation. There are activities and campgrounds all along the trail, easily accessible for kayaking enthusiasts.
Downloadable maps and information are available at www.ERCKTrail.org.
A waterproof printed card is available for purchase through the website. Proceeds from the sale of the card will benefit the ERCK Trail Commission.
The project is a joint partnership between Colleton County, Dorchester County and the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor (SCNHC) with the goal of promoting one of South Carolina’s most unique natural habitats.
The ERCK Trail covers a 62 mile stretch of the Edisto River, the longest free flowing blackwater river spanning 250 miles in the United States and one of the longest in the world.
The ERCK Trail Commission was established by Colleton County in 1989 by Charlie Sweat who lived a lifetime of public service, serving 27 years on Walterboro City Council and a term as mayor. Sadly, he passed away last January.
Sweat’s contribution to raising awareness of the beauty and diversity of the Edisto River has created wonderful opportunities for nature lovers and those who enjoy leisurely canoe and kayak trips.
Simply pack the kayak hull with tents, cooking utensils, edibles, and fishing gear, then go.
Here are the entry points and places to camp along the way.
From Green Pond Church Landing to Simmons Landing (3 miles).
The highest stretch of the ERCK trail begins at Green Pond Church Landing and continues to Simmon’s Landing. This stretch of river is very narrow with faster currents and impractical for canoes and kayaks in times of drought and if water levels are below 3 ‘on the Givhans gauge. Please note that Simmons Landing is a paid private hotspot.
Simmons Landing at T. Coke Weeks Landing (6 miles).
This section is where the river begins to widen, although tighter hairpin turns exist along the entire ERCK trail. Paddlers pass under Interstate I-95 about 2 miles down the river. Fossils have been found there lying on the banks and the river bed. A South Carolina hobby permit is required to remove submerged fossils from the river and rules and regulations apply. For the last mile of the course, paddlers will pass the powerhouse at SCE & G’s Canadys station.
Colleton State Park is located directly across the river from Weeks Landing on the right of the river.
Colleton State Park offers easy river access, a 0.3 mile interpretive trail, campground, picnic shelter, and bike trails.
T. Coke Weeks Landing to Minnie Gruber Rumph Landing (9 miles)
This stretch is perfectly suited for a long lazy day paddling and fishing. Boat launching ramps at every entrance and a constant stream of river cabins make this a popular fishing destination for John Boats. According to experienced kayakers, at about 3.5 miles the river briefly splits into two channels, with the straight river crossing gaining considerable speed. Beware of being pushed into the river bank here. The takeaway is located just before the bridge on the right of the river.
Minnie Gruber Rumph Landing at Mars Oldfield Landing (8 miles).
At normal to lower water levels there is a small “rocky” island in the middle of the river channel within a mile of placement. The stagecoaches used this feature to ford the river during lower water levels. The take out is on the right with a long concrete ramp.
March Oldfield Landing to Givhans Ferry State Park (6.5 miles).
During the last mile of this section, large cliffs on the left force the river to make a ninety degree turn from east to south. Givhans Ferry State Park is located high up on these cliffs. For those with the energy to paddle uphill, 4 miles along this Four Holes Swamp route offers a detour. Tubers float on this stretch of the river.
Right on the banks of the Edisto and not far from the Mars Oldfield facility, you’ll find Bee City, which offers a close-up view of a working beehive, honey available for purchase, and even a zoo for children home to wallabies, lemurs, alpacas, rabbits, monkeys and goats. A nature center features snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and alligators. It is a great place to spend a few hours, enjoy the animals and have a snack.
Givhans Ferry State Park at Messervy Landing (3 miles).
This part of the ERCK trail is wider and straighter. After rowing just a quarter of a mile, river enthusiasts pass under the Highway 61 bridge. Due to its proximity to the full-service facilities at Givhans Ferry State Park, this is the one of the most used parts of the ERCK trail. It is well known for being the main tuber / float and boat / jet ski route during the summer months.
Givhans Ferry State Park offers kayaking and canoeing, a hiking trail, fishing, camping, swimming, biking, picnic shelter, and more. Between these two landings is Edisto River Adventures which offers tent camping by the river.
Messervy Landing at Good Hope Landing (4 miles).
Several abandoned river channels and developing dead lakes can be found on this route. From Messervy Landing downstream, fishermen in small motor boats multiply.
Good Hope Landing at Long Creek Landing (4 miles).
This section of the ERCK trail is a “sister section” to the one immediately upstream. According to members of the ERCK, the takeout at Long Creek Landing is not on the main channel of the Edisto. It is accessed by paddling 0.2 miles along the side draw on the right of the river, just past the second set of river houses on the left.
Long Creek Landing at Sullivan’s Ferry Landing (2 miles).
The main landmark along this stretch is the Highway 17A Bridge, which is about ¾ of a mile past the Long Creek Pier.
Sullivan Landing Ferry to Lowndes Landing (5.5 miles).
About 3 miles to the left of the river, Parkers Ferry Road runs along the riverside. Sand bars are prevalent along this stretch when the Givhans gauge reads less than 3.2 feet. This provides secluded camping options along the ERCK trail.
Lowndes Landing marks the lower limit of the official ERCK test, although Martin’s Landing is the next public access site and is located in Charleston County about 2.5 miles downstream.
Fishing on the Edisto
A total of 87 species of freshwater and 120 species of saltwater fish have been identified in the Edisto. Largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, and black crappie, but the prized red breast is perhaps the most sought after species along the ERCK trail.
If you’re planning a multi-day adventure on the ERCK Trail, riverside accommodations on this stretch include cabins and camping at Colleton State Parks and Givhans Ferry. Edisto River Adventures Just upstream from the ERCK Trail are the revered treehouses owned and operated by Carolina Heritage Outfitters.
Carolina Heritage Outfitters treehouses are expensive, but contain three rustic and secluded treehouses, located in the private 150-acre Edisto River Hideaway, can accommodate up to four, six, or eight people and are available from March 1 to the end of November. The treehouses are located out of sight of each other on the edges of a peaceful river peninsula, bordered by a neck-level creek almost creating an island. There is no electricity or running water. Outdoor toilets are located near each unit.
Each treehouse includes:
A small kitchen area with a table and chairs, a propane stove, pots and pans, plates and utensils
A dining terrace with an outdoor gas barbecue
A mezzanine with mosquito net with one or two futon mattresses depending on the size of the unit
Main level futons that unfold to accommodate additional sleeping space
A rope hammock that swings
Some games like dominoes and playing cards
Visitors pack and carry their own provisions for all meals. Other items to bring include sleeping bags, pillow cases, and towels. Carolina Heritage Outfitters provides a list of other suggested items to take with you for your adventure.