Kayaking in the Lowcountry

Check out Monthly’s top 10 where and how kayaking guide.

Kayaking in the LowcountryIt’s time to drag the dusty kayaks out of the garage and hit the local waters. The only problem: There are so many serene settings to choose from, where should you start? A couple of local kayak specialists — north and south of Broad Creek — offer up their favorite paddling places, as well as tips to get you started this season.

  1. Broad Creek
    Carlos Chacon, the natural history manager at the Coastal Discovery Museum, puts Shelter Cove Marina at the top of his list because of its location — roughly the middle of Broad Creek. “This means that when you enter the creek, you can always choose to go against the tide and use the tide on your way back,” he said.
  2. The best paddling time
    Choose the best time of the day, week and season for the ultimate Lowcountry experience. For starters, try kayaking early in the morning for heightened bird activity and during the week when there are less boats on the water, Chacon said.
Watch the Tides
Scout out locations with a local kayak guide, which will help you familiarize yourself with the tides and the lay of the land. Outside Hilton Head offers several programs for the curious paddler. Visit them online at OutsideHiltonHead.com.
  • Pinckney Island
    Partake in Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge. At  4,035 acres, it is the largest of the island’s refuges and the only one open to public use. The area consists of salt marsh, tidal creeks and freshwater ponds.
  • Where the dolphins play
    Kayak where the dolphins play along Sea Pines’ Harbour Town. Sea Pines boasts 5,000 oceanfront acres, spanning a third of Hilton Head Island — making it a great kayak vacation.
  • A history lesson
    Get a history lesson while you paddle. David Gorzynski, co-owner of Beaufort Kayak Tours, loves to conduct tours around the historic city of Beaufort. In particular, his route often consists of the Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve, a 3-acre spot situated along the Beaufort River that contains the remains of a tabby fort built by the British between 1730 and 1734.
  • Kayaking Trails
    The Beaufort Blueways self-guided kayak trails o er an appealing experience for the novice and adventurer. For a complete list of launching points and other places of interest, visit www.beaufortblueways.info.
  • For nature lovers
    Nature lovers will enjoy Hunting Island. It is South Carolina’s most popular state park, attracting more than a million human visitors a year and where you can catch a menagerie of wildlife — including loggerhead sea turtles, painted buntings, barracudas, sea horses, alligators, pelicans, dolphins, deer, raccoons, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and even the rare coral snake.
  • Take in the sights
    Paddle along Beaufort’s antebellum downtown, trailing the city’s newly renovated Waterfront Park, under the magnifi cent Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge, a swing bridge leading to Lady’s Island.
  • ACE Basin
    Check out the ACE Basin, the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers that converge to form the St. Helena Sound. For a complete list of boat landings, visit www.acebasin.net. “It has a wonderful history of the area’s rice culture that was in production for 250 years,” Gorzynski said. “There are a lot of remnants of the culture left. It’s a wonderful wilderness experience, this part of South Carolina.”
  • Kayak Safety

    • Make sure to bring a life jacket and a whistle with you on your kayaking trip. Coast Guard regulations require that all kayaks have them on board. Always check your equipment for wear and tear before you paddle.
    • Research proper paddling techniques, water safety and first aid. Start by taking a guided kayak tour to get a feel for the area’s unique setting.
    • Tell someone your paddle plan, including: where you’re going, what you will be doing, how long you expect to be gone and how many people are in your  party. Then, stick to your plan.
    • Stay hydrated. Always bring plenty of water and food.
    • Be aware of weather conditions and water temperature. Prepare for changes in weather and the possibility of a capsize. Watch out for offshore winds that make it difficult to return to shore.

    SOURCE: OutsideHiltonHead.com and OceanKayak.com

    Helpful Web sites

    Kayak Fest


    RIVER QUEST 2009

    What: River Quest 2009
    When: Registration begins at 8 a.m. March 21
    Where: Beaufort’s Waterfront Park
    How: Download a registration application at HigherGroundoftheLowcountry.com or register online at active.com. Or call (843) 986-0233 or (843) 379-4327.
    Cost: Fees are $20 for a the 3-mile solo kayak/canoe race; $30 for a 3-mile tandem kayak/canoe and a 7.4-mile solo kayak/canoe race; and $40 for the 7.4 mile tandem kayak/canoe race. There is a late fee of $10 for registrations made after March 20.
    Details: Whether you’re a leisure paddler or Olympic bound, there is something for everyone at Higher Ground’s River Quest 2009. Event proceeds benefit the Backpack Buddies, an after-school program that brings children from Title 1 schools some nutritious meals to take home with them on the weekends. Since the program is not funded by the school district, it’s entirely dependent on donations.

    “River Quest is probably in one of the most beautiful venues around,” said Michael Murphy, an event organizer. “It’s a very scenic tour … As kayakers, we just need an excuse to load that big piece of plastic on our trucks or cars. Having these races periodically during the year keeps kayaking in everyone’s minds.”